Stanford clinches NIT title in overtime thriller

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Stanford played like the Cardinal of January to capture its third NIT championship in school history and its second in four years, beating Miami 66-64 in overtime. Senior guard Chasson Randle was sensational once again, dropping 25 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and delivering a championship with 6 of the team’s 7 points in overtime to cap off his historic Stanford career.

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The Card attacked the paint early and often in both halves, going inside to fifth-year senior center Stefan Nastic on the low block. The Big Nasty attacked Miami’s frontcourt, opening up shots for Randle, fifth-year senior small forward Anthony Brown and sophomore guard Marcus Allen on the wings. Stanford’s electric offense was on full display, as the Cardinal were able to score in a variety of ways to build an 11-point lead going into halftime. The big three of Brown, Randle and Nastic accounted for 24 of the Cardinal’s 32.

Miami was missing Tonye Jekiri and Angel Rodriguez, who make up 30 percent of the Hurricanes’ offense. The U couldn’t quite find its offensive rhythm without the pair of juniors in the first half. Stanford forced a lot of contested mid-range jumpers and rebounded well to deny Miami second-chance opportunities. The Canes tallied four blocks and forced seven turnovers in the first period but couldn’t produce points off their defensive effort, finishing with only 4 transition points. They connected on only eight of their 27 attempts in the half.

Miami, however, mounted a comeback run in the second half after trailing by 13 with some key plays from Sheldon McClellan and Ja’Quan Newton. McClellan capped off an 11-5 run with a monstrous dunk in transition to get Miami within 5, and Newton sank a pair of threes to keep the game within reach.

Freshman forward Reid Travis continued his magnificent tournament play, netting a 3-point play after a Stanford timeout with 13 left to play in the second half to extend the lead to eight after Miami’s run. The true freshman finished with 7 points and 7 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards. Travis filled in nicely once Nastic fouled out with two minutes left and the score even at 55.

Desperately needing offense as regulation expired, Stanford went to its all-time leading scorer for two clutch baskets. Randle drove right on consecutive possessions to put the Cardinal up 2 with 28 ticks left on the clock. McClellan answered with two clutch free throws — four in the final minute — to tie the game once more. Marcus Allen was short on a last-second 3, sending the championship game into overtime for the first time since 1995.

Miami was rolling in overtime as Stanford struggled, committing two turnovers and going 0-for-5 in three minutes of play. The Canes took a 3-point lead after a soft pass from Sheldon McClellan to Davon Reed led to an open layup. With the game on the line, Randle willed the Cardinal to a 65-64 lead with six straight points from the free-throw line, four of which were after Reed’s layup. On the ensuing possession, Davon Reed tried to find McClellan on an inbounds pass but threw the ball wide, giving Stanford possession with 3.4 ticks remaining.

Brown was fouled on the next play and made one of two for a 66-64 lead. Reed lobbed a pass to the frontcourt in a desperation play but the ball once again skidded out of bounds. After an official review, the ball was ruled out on Brown, giving Miami one last shot at the title. The Canes found McClellan on the wing with 1.8 seconds left, but his double-pump 3-point attempt fell short thanks to stellar defense by Brown.

Randle’s heroic effort earned him tournament MVP honors. The fifth-year senior ends his illustrious career with 2,375 total points.

After a disappointing end to the regular season, the team was able to end its season on a high note with a championship title, its second in four years. The team might not have earned the NCAA bid it had hoped it would, but an NIT title is certainly something to be proud of.

Contact Irving Rodriguez at irod973 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Irving Rodriguez is a beat reporter for men's soccer and basketball. He was born in Mexico, but has lived in Chicago since second grade. He is all too willing to skip homework in order to watch the Chicago Bulls and Manchester United and will defend Derrick Rose until the very end. He likes to write about soccer, basketball and analytics. Irving is a senior majoring in Physics. To contact him, please email irodriguez 'at' stanford.edu.