One of the critical things that Stanford basketball needed to do heading into a tough final stretch of the regular season was to win a very winnable game against a very beatable USC team. Senior forward Josh Huestis made absolutely sure that the tournament-hopeful Cardinal would take care of business when it needed to, while also etching his name in the record books by becoming Stanford’s all-time blocking leader.
On the back of a huge game from Huestis, in which he notched 11 points and 18 rebounds to go with three blocks, Stanford (17-8, 8-5 Pac-12) trounced the Trojans (10-16, 1-12 Pac-12) by a score of 80-59. The Card easily took control of the conference’s last-place squad and built momentum going into a critical matchup against No. 23 UCLA on Saturday.
“I’m really proud of our guys, the way we played tonight,” Huestis said. “And then just as far as the blocks and the rebounds go, I’m just happy because I get to make my mark on the Stanford record books, and I’m just proud of how hard I went on the boards tonight. It’s exhausting, but the payoff is great, so it was worth it.”
Huestis entered the game needing just one more block to tie Tim Young ‘98 for the program lead, and he got one of those out of the way quickly on the first shot of the game amidst a largely forgettable start to the evening for the Cardinal.
Stanford opened the game shooting just 2-of-12 from the field before the first media timeout, but was still tied with the Trojans at five at that point thanks to solid rebounding and four early turnovers by USC. Those early turnover issues would prove to be a sign of things to come for USC, which turned the ball over a whopping 18 times – including five from its leading scorer, Pe’Shon Howard – versus just seven giveaways by the Cardinal.
“I’m not sure [why we started slowly], to be honest,” said junior guard Chasson Randle. “I think it could have just been a matter of just we haven’t been home in a while. But you can’t blame that on anything; we just have to keep playing basketball, and eventually the shots and things will start going well for us. And they did.”
After both teams settled in and started making their shots in the first half, the Cardinal headed into the break up 32-23 thanks to the tough, physical play of Randle, despite the team’s struggles from 3-point range – Stanford shot just 1-of-13 from behind the arc before the break. Randle finished the half with 10 points, while Huestis led the team at that point with nine boards.
The teams started the second half by trading points back and forth, but the Cardinal proceeded to seize the game with a 21-5 run over an eight-minute stretch starting with 13 minutes left in the game, giving it an insurmountable 72-47 lead going into the end of the game.
“Basketball is a game of runs, and they’re going to happen,” Huestis said. “You can’t let that control how you perform on the offensive and defensive end. So we got our guys together, regrouped, and like you saw, then we just started chipping away and pushing away and then didn’t look back after that.”
Spurring the monster run for Stanford was Huestis, who stuffed his 168th career block in the opening minutes of the second half before notching his 169th – and record-setting – career block to take the all-time lead just before the run began with the Cardinal up just 51-40.
With the Cardinal resting its starters for the end of the second half, freshman center Schuyler Rimmer, freshman guard Malcolm Allen and junior guard Wade Morgan made rare appearances, with Rimmer making just his second and third field goals of his collegiate career.
As has been the case in many games this season, Randle led the team in points with 18, while senior guard Anthony Brown added 13 points of his own and senior forward Dwight Powell contributed 14 points despite briefly leaving the game during the first half after he took a tooth to the back of the head while going to the floor after a missed layup. He would return after a few minutes with a bandage wrapped around his head, wearing a clean No. 32 jersey in place of his customary No. 33.
Despite Stanford’s slow start to the game in shooting – it shot 28.6 percent from the field overall in the first half – its furious second-half clip gave it an respectable 40.6 shooting percentage for the game. However, one glaring deficiency on the box score was the 2-of-19 shooting from behind the arc – something that the team will need to work on moving into its key matchup against UCLA tomorrow as it also tries to maintain its solid defense.
“I think [the UCLA game is] going to boil down to us coming in focused and giving it our all on the defensive end,” Randle said. “They’re a great team. I heard they played really well yesterday [against Cal]. We know they’re going to be excited for this game.”
Tipoff at Maples Pavilion against UCLA in a pivotal Pac-12 matchup will be at 3 p.m. tomorrow.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.