If you tuned in to the game at the McKale Center on Saturday afternoon, you just might have wondered if NBA MVP Stephen Curry had time-traveled back to his college days and transferred to the University of Arizona.
Yet it was not Curry, but another skinny, undersized guard by the name of Gabe York who lit up for a career-high 32 points against Stanford, leading No. 18 Arizona (24-7, 12-6 Pac-12) to a 94-62 destruction of Stanford (15-14, 8-10) in the Cardinal’s last game of conference play.
York opened the game with a 3-pointer, and the Wildcats built a 15-point lead by the midway point of the first half that they would not give up. The Cardinal were plagued by the same problems they’ve experienced all season; while their defense played well, their offensive production was anemic and could not keep up with the Cats’ 20th-ranked offense.
Phoenix native Michael Humphrey had a solid night in his homecoming game, scoring 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting while grabbing 9 rebounds. The rest of the starters could not find any rhythm shooting the ball, however, collectively shooting 24 percent from the field and an atrocious 1-for-16 from the 3-point line.
Stanford also suffered from the absence of starting point guard Christian Sanders, whom head coach Johnny Dawkins announced is facing an indefinite suspension due to a violation of team rules, with the announcement coming just hours before the team’s loss to Arizona State on Thursday. Sophomore Dorian Pickens started in his place, recording 8 points on 2-for-10 shooting and just two assists.
Leading 40-24 at halftime, Arizona came out even stronger in the second half, stretching the lead to 29 seven minutes into the half behind 9 3-pointers from York. The senior guard could not be stopped in his final regular season game for Arizona, knocking down shots from nearly 30 feet and finishing with all 9 of his field goals from beyond the arc.
The contrast between the teams’ shooting nights was like black and white, as the Wildcats shot over 49 percent from the field and set a team-record with 18 3-pointers.
With just over five minutes left in the game and Arizona leading by nearly 40, head coach Sean Miller pulled his starters from the game to a raucous standing ovation from the Tucson crowd, which has spurred the Wildcats to 55 wins in their last 56 games at home. The final 32-point deficit marked Stanford’s worst loss of the season.
Such a loss could not have come at a worse time for Stanford, as the team will have to quickly regroup for the Pac-12 Tournament and postseason play. Stanford enters the tournament as the ninth seed and will play eighth-seeded Washington (17-13, 9-9) in the first round.
The Huskies defeated Stanford 64-53 in early February, the only meeting between the teams this season. While the Cardinal successfully limited Pac-12 scoring leader Andrew Andrews to just eight points, poor shooting prevented the team from stealing a win against the higher-ranked team. Freshman guard Dejounte Murray was a force for the Huskies in the game, exploding for 25 points.
Should Stanford find a way past the Huskies this time, it will meet top-seeded Oregon in the quarterfinals. While Stanford upset the then-No.11 Ducks earlier this season at home, the team has not lost a game since then. Arizona also lies on the Cardinal’s side of the bracket, with a rematch looming in the semifinals between the teams if both were to make it that far.
The Pac-12 is expected to send a staggering seven teams to the NCAA tournament, however; barring a miraculous run in the conference tournament, the Cardinal will not be among them. Stanford is currently projected on the bubble of the NIT tourney, which the team won last year. A poor performance against Washington could relegate the team to the lowly CBI tournament.
Stanford tips off against Washington on Wednesday at noon in Las Vegas, Nevada on Pac-12 Networks. The tournament will continue through Saturday evening.
Contact Neel Ramachandran at [email protected]