An explosive effort by the conference’s top-scoring offense proved too difficult to handle as ninth-seeded Stanford men’s basketball (15-15, 8-10 Pac-12) fell to eighth-seeded Washington (18-13, 9-9) in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, 91-68.
With senior guard Christian Sanders still suspended, the Cardinal lacked inspiration on offense and failed to assert their style against the fast-paced Huskies. Stanford never led its conference opponent and appeared unable to seriously challenge a Washington side that had won just two of its last eight games going into the matchup.
“I thought we tried to battle,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “I thought we tried to force some issues and that led us into a worse direction.”
The Cardinal looked sluggish out of the locker room, conceding a 24-5 run after the tipoff that put the game largely out of reach within the opening minutes. The team did briefly respond with a 7-0 spurt to claw back to within 12, but it proved unable to keep the Huskies at bay for long, as the Dawgs extended their lead to 28 by the half.
Stanford switched to a man defense in the second half and attempted to boost its energy level to create more scoring chances, but it ultimately couldn’t establish any sustained momentum as it failed to close the gap to within 20. The team’s increased intensity on defense did little to slow the Huskies and took a toll on Stanford’s own roster, with sophomore Michael Humphrey and freshman Josh Sharma both fouling out with over eight minutes to play, followed by senior Grant Verhoeven with less than four minutes remaining.
“We just didn’t get off to a quick start like we should have and we let them dictate to us too much,” said senior forward Rosco Allen.
Allen added his fourth career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, but struggled to find consistency on the floor as he connected on just two of his 11 shots. Sophomore Dorian Pickens was perhaps the lone Cardinal bright spot, accruing 17 points.
Dejounte Murray led Washington with 25 points, while fellow freshman Marquise Chriss put in a double-double of his own with 18 points and 10 boards.
It’s not immediately clear if and how Stanford’s season will continue beyond this game. With an RPI ranking of 74 before the loss, Stanford is all but officially excluded from the 64-team NCAA Tournament, which begins next week.
A berth in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) remains a possibility, though the Cardinal will have to rely on their strength of schedule to make their case, as no team with a record at or below .500 has made the alternate championship since 2010. The Collegiate Basketball Invitational, which selects 16 teams that do not make the NCAA Tournament or the NIT, is another likelihood.
Brackets for the NIT and the CBI will be released in the hours following the NCAA selection show, which takes place this Sunday, March 13.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.