Going on the road in conference play can at times be about the art of survival. For the Stanford men’s basketball team, survival was the sole objective on Sunday afternoon, and the Cardinal eventually passed the test, albeit narrowly.
Stanford (13-6, 4-3 Pac-12) eventually overcame the USC Trojans (10-10, 1-6) 79-71 in overtime, capping an ugly contest that certainly did not see the Cardinal play its best basketball. That said, head coach Johnny Dawkins and company certainly will take it: The win was just Stanford’s second victory in its last 18 tries against the likes of USC and UCLA in Los Angeles and was badly needed on the heels of a 17-point defeat to UCLA on Thursday.
Senior forward John Gage’s 12 points off the bench, all of which came in the second half and overtime, keyed the Stanford victory. It matched a season high for Gage, who also chipped in four rebounds and a career-high four steals. Not typically known for his defensive prowess, Gage made several strong defensive plays throughout the course of the second half, even while guarding a much bigger player in USC’s Omar Oraby, which greatly contributed to the Cardinal victory.
Junior guard Chasson Randle, who suffered through his worst performance of the season on Thursday against UCLA, bounced back late against the Trojans, scoring seven of his team-high 17 points in overtime to help seal the win for Stanford.
Randle, Gage and senior guard Anthony Brown were the primary contributors to the Cardinal’s overtime success. After a costly turnover with 30 seconds left in regulation that allowed USC’s Byron Wesley to hit two free throws to tie the game with 22 seconds remaining, Brown played an extremely solid overtime period, scoring five points and assisting on a Gage 3-pointer.
Wesley finished with 18 points in the defeat for the Trojans, while forward Strahinja Gavrilovic tallied a career-high 12 points off the bench to help keep USC close.
For Stanford, the game started innocuously enough. The Cardinal jumped out to an early 12-4 lead five minutes into the game before enduring a long cold stretch with Randle on the bench with two fouls that allowed USC back into the contest. USC took its first lead of the game at 17-16 on a Pe’Shon Howard three-point play, and the teams would trade baskets for the rest of the half until a technical foul on Howard allowed Randle to shoot four straight free throws. The Cardinal would enter halftime leading 32-28.
USC began the second half as the hungrier team, quickly snatching the lead from Stanford and maintaining it until a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer by Gage gave the Cardinal a three-point lead seven minutes into the half. Stanford would grow its lead to 58-51 with 3:54 remaining but failed to execute down the stretch, in the process allowing the Trojans to hang around. Five Stanford turnovers over the final 5:29 of regulation proved costly, the most expensive of those being Brown’s mistake with 30 seconds to play that gave Wesley free throws to tie the game.
As if it was finally tired of letting USC hang around, Stanford seized control of overtime from the outset, thanks in large part to the efforts of Randle, Brown and Gage. Gage’s 3-pointer with 2:53 left to play gave Stanford a commanding six-point advantage, and the Trojans would never again draw within one possession.
Senior forwards Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell were again solid for Stanford, tallying a combined 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting.
The Cardinal will now turn its attention to No. 1 Arizona, which visits Maples Pavilion on Wednesday for the marquee home game of the season. Tip off is set for 6 p.m.
Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.