After a strong stretch of performances that saw the Cardinal win five of its previous six games, including an upset victory over No. 23 UCLA on Saturday, the Stanford men’s basketball team (18-9, 9-6 Pac-12) put forth a forgettable performance in a dreadful road defeat to the Arizona State Sun Devils (20-8, 9-6) on Wednesday night, falling 76-64.
It was trouble from the start for the Cardinal, which failed to remotely resemble the team that had taken care of UCLA from start to finish on Saturday. Stanford opened the game with three consecutive turnovers, a tasty treat for a Sun Devils team that was clearly hungry following a 33-point beatdown at the hands of the Utah Utes on Sunday.
If it weren’t for junior guard Chasson Randle, Stanford would have been run off the court early in the first half. Instead, the Illinois native scored 15 of Stanford’s 29 points in the opening frame to keep his team within contact of the Sun Devils, cutting the deficit to 10 by halftime by nailing a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the period.
The Cardinal got itself into a big hole early thanks to an abysmal offensive performance during the first half. Stanford committed 10 turnovers and totaled just one assist while shooting a pedestrian 41.7 percent from the field during the opening frame. The team looked out of sorts on both ends of the floor, leaving 3-point shooters open on late rotations and repeatedly throwing the ball away on offense.
Credit is due to the Sun Devils, who did a fantastic job of guarding passes to the post and taking away the inside-out formula that has worked so effectively for senior big men Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell this season. Stanford was unable to make adjustments on the fly, and as a result, the Sun Devils were able to open up the large early lead.
For the first five minutes of the second half, it looked as though the Cardinal might be able to claw its way back into the game. Stanford cut the lead to single digits with 15:31 left to play after an Anthony Brown free throw.
Unfortunately for Stanford, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson took over shortly thereafter, and Stanford helped him plenty along the way to an easy ASU victory.
Carson nailed a jumper on the ensuing ASU possession, and after a bad shot by Powell ended a quick Stanford trip down the floor, Carson found Bo Barnes for a 3-pointer to extend the Sun Devil lead to 16. Stanford turned it over on its next two possessions, and another smooth jumper by Carson pushed the ASU lead even further out of reach. When Randle fouled out with 7:11 remaining and Stanford trailing by 16, it was clear there would be no Cardinal comeback on this night.
Randle finished with 17 points for Stanford on 7-of-14 shooting and was largely responsible for any offensive success the Cardinal managed while he was on the floor.
Brown tallied 21 points and seven rebounds during a too-little-too-late comeback attempt, and was the lone bright spot in the second half for Stanford that Randle was in the first.
Yet it was Carson that was clearly the man of the night, scoring 23 of his 26 points in the second half to guide the Sun Devils to victory, and in the process remind tortured Stanford basketball fans everywhere of his 34-point outburst against the Cardinal in last year’s Pac-12 tournament.
He was aided in victory by fellow backcourt mate Jermaine Marshall, who finished with 16 points after having dropped 22 on the Cardinal the last time out.
Stanford has little time or margin for error to turn things back around, as the Cardinal will head to Tucson on Sunday to take on the conference-leading Arizona Wildcats in a rematch of Stanford’s most heartbreaking defeat to date this season. After struggling to find their identity for a time after the season-ending injury to starting forward Brandon Ashley, the Wildcats are now arguably playing their best basketball of the season. Arizona has put together consecutive routs of Colorado and Cal, both projected to be NCAA Tournament teams at the moment by all major media prognosticators.
If Stanford wants to have a chance of upsetting the Wildcats on their home floor, the team that showed up against UCLA, and not the one that played against ASU, will have to take the court for the Cardinal.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. on Sunday and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.