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Cardinal solidifies NCAA tourney hopes with home upset of UCLA

According to junior guard Chasson Randle, backcourt mate Anthony Brown has a motto: “It only takes one to get hot.”

Randle took the slogan to heart and then some on Saturday afternoon, connecting on a career-high seven 3-pointers en route to scoring 26 points, leading the Stanford men’s basketball team to an 83-74 upset victory over No. 23 UCLA (21-6, 10-4 Pac-12) at Maples Pavilion. The win snapped UCLA’s four-game winning streak and moved the Cardinal (18-8, 9-5) into third place in the Pac-12 with just four games left to play in the conference season.

Junior guard Chasson Randle (center)

Junior guard Chasson Randle (center) spurred Stanford’s upset victory over No. 23 UCLA on Saturday by sinking a career-best seven 3-pointers as he scored 26 points on the evening. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

“I think it was just a very good win for our team, a very good win for our program,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “I thought UCLA came in as hot as any team in the country, and I thought our guys came prepared and won a real hard-fought game.”

Stanford followed Randle’s example on its way to its best shooting night of the season, connecting on 62.2 percent of its field goal attempts, including 55 percent (11-20) from beyond the 3-point line. The accurate touch from the field was enough to offset Stanford’s 15 turnovers, which led to 24 UCLA points.

Newly minted as Stanford’s all-time blocks leader, senior forward Josh Huestis turned in perhaps his best performance of the season in support of Randle. The Montana native tied a career high with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting and added six rebounds, five blocks and three assists, all the while spending a large portion of the afternoon shutting down Jordan Adams, UCLA’s leading scorer. Adams was held to just eight points on 2-of-7 shooting, nine points below his season average.

Brown was also superb for the Cardinal, scoring 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with six rebounds and three assists, while also drawing perhaps the toughest defensive assignment of all in UCLA’s Kyle Anderson. Anderson — the team’s second-leading scorer, top rebounder and assists leader — struggled to find the basket. The sophomore finished with just six points on 3-of-8 shooting.

A competitive battle throughout, the game was knotted at 18 with 10:33 remaining in the first half when Stanford, spurred by its bench players, embarked on a 12-0 run to open up a 30-18 lead. After a nifty feed from senior Dwight Powell led to a Huestis dunk, UCLA’s Tony Parker missed a pair of free throws to give Stanford the ball back. Randle promptly nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the first half to push the Cardinal’s lead to five before the bench had its magic Maples moment.

Freshman guard Marcus Allen rebounded a missed jumper by Anderson, leading to a rare Randle miss on Stanford’s next possession. Sophomore Grant Verhoeven corralled the miss that failed to touch iron, and with the shot clock winding down, Allen nimbly maneuvered his way through three UCLA defenders for an acrobatic scoop shot off the glass, sending the home crowd into a tizzy. Stanford came up with another stop on UCLA’s ensuing possession, and 28 seconds later, senior Robbie Lemons connected on a 3 from the left corner that finally forced UCLA coach Steve Alford to call a timeout.

Stanford used the run to take a 38-30 lead into halftime despite a scoreless frame from Powell, the team’s second-leading scorer. Powell had been bloodied to the point of needing stitches during the Cardinal’s victory over USC on Thursday and was sporting a protective headband against the Bruins.

Despite the first-half struggles, Powell responded early and often in the second half, scoring nine of Stanford’s first 14 points in the period. The last of those nine points came on a spectacular double-alley-oop dunk via Randle and Brown that was featured as the No. 1 play on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, and more importantly, gave Stanford a 52-39 lead with 16:09 left to play.

Coach Dawkins recognized at halftime that if the Cardinal was going to succeed, Powell would have to be more involved in the second half.

“We made an emphasis to try to get [Powell] the ball early to start the second half,” Dawkins said. “I think he had the first nine points or so. He didn’t get very many touches in the first half. We knew we were going to need him if we were going to have a chance to be successful.”

Although Powell’s outburst opened up a big lead for Stanford, the Bruins calmly collected themselves, and within a span of six minutes and 16 seconds, UCLA had closed the gap to three at 60-57.

The second-half struggles that had plagued the Cardinal on the offensive end in its losses to Arizona and Washington had reappeared, and Dawkins was forced to call a timeout.

However, this time around, Stanford had answers to its problems. Brown knocked down a deep 3-pointer on the Cardinal’s next possession with just two seconds remaining on the shot clock to push the lead back to six, and after a UCLA timeout and a stop on the defensive end, Randle knocked down his sixth triple of the afternoon. The lead was nine, and UCLA would never again get closer than four.

“Yeah, [the 3-pointer sequence] was huge,” Huestis said. “Basketball is a game of runs and UCLA went on theirs. And you know, there are games where if you don’t respond, that game could’ve easily changed — the outcome. But with Anthony and Chasson hitting those shots, it was a huge momentum-changer for us. It was a big swing and it got us back on track.”

Stanford has now won five of its last six as it heads down the final stretch. NCAA tournament hopes have never been higher for the Cardinal this season than they are now, and a split of the team’s final four games down the stretch should be enough to get Stanford back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2008.

Contact Daniel Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Candid One

    “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” That’s been the issue with Stanford’s players. The 2010-11 NIT Champ had late-season chemistry and good size. Unfortunately, that size graduated and hasn’t been fully replaced yet. The “bigs” picture looked hopeful when Mark Madsen joined the staff as an assistant coach. Unfortunately that didn’t last and the physicality of Stanford’s tall slender players continued lacking. Fortunately, the current tall guys are maturing to play a physical game despite their lack of girth. This season, regardless of a game’s outcome, Stanford has been a tough matchup with its “bigs” new aggressiveness. That’s made the difference from which the perimeter players can benefit.

    This season’s growth was balky initially. That first UCLA game was about Stanford’s first encounter with a high quality defense. Aside from their shots not falling, Stanford was taken out of its game by the subtle throttling of UCLA’s team defense. Their seemed to be a lesson learned in that game and the Cardinal brought its “A” game as a counter. Make no mistake, Stanford beat a very good UCLA team–at both ends. It was up the horse to choose to drink…finally.

    FYI. During the recent win at Berkeley, the TV commentator, the redoubtable Bill Walton, had an interesting comment…among his general effusiveness. In the final 5 minutes of that game, as it looked like Stanford had established control, Walton somberly observed that Stanford was the better coached team on the floor. Considering who’s high standard Johnny Dawkins has to meet–and the speaker, that wasn’t a hollow comment. After his NBA career, Bill Walton earned an MBA at Stanford’s GSB and also attended Stanford Law School and has followed Stanford basketball on his own. His observation had some real familiarity behind it; he’s watched both coaches during their respective Stanford tenures.

    Next year’s incoming frosh are very good prospects. It’ll be interesting to see how much carry-over there’ll be from this current team chemistry.

  • Agreed.

    Very astute comment–I totally agree. Nastic has done an inspired job on the defensive end (he goes to the bench nearly keeling over from fighting with and containing bigger and more aggresive opponents down low–a true effort player), and his effort has closed the holes defensively that the team had last year. It will be crucial next year for one of the PF prospects to develop quickly, because getting an offensive threat down low could be key to creating a more balanced offensive attack next year (Powell is a great player, but is on the perimeter more than the post) and to open up the perimeter by forcing opponents to respect the post.