Despite leading USC (15-3, 4-1 Pac-12) 45-25 at halftime on Saturday, Stanford men’s basketball (15-3, 4-1 Pac-12) was unable to overcome its second half collapse and preserve the conference’s final remaining perfect record. The Trojans outscored the visiting Cardinal 44-24 in the second to send the thriller to overtime before sealing the deal in a 82-78 USC victory.
If the opening minutes were at all indicative of the outcome, it did not appear victory would come easily to either team. A layup from junior forward Oscar da Silva less than a minute into play gave Stanford an early edge, but USC immediately answered with two jumpers of its own. It wasn’t until freshman forward Spencer Jones sank his second 3-pointer of the night that the Cardinal found their footing, which took the form of a 10-2 scoring run.
Jones, who boasts a team-high 52 threes so far this season, sank six from behind the arc against the Trojans; Jones’ 18 points were a career high for the freshman, and the second-best scoring effort for the Cardinal behind 21 points from da Silva. Freshman guard Tyrell Terry added an additional 16 for Stanford, including a deep triple as the first-half clock expired — the pinnacle of the Cardinal’s momentum and control.
Just seconds into the second half, USC commenced its comeback. Following a miss one, make one performance from da Silva at the foul line, the Trojans added 10 to their side of the scoreboard, and cut the Cardinal lead to 11. da Silva, off an assist from fellow junior Daejon Davis, was able to respond with a layup. Davis finished the night with five assists, second only to Terry, who had a hand in six. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the two points did nothing to slow the Trojans, who closed what had been a 21-point gap, at its largest, by the time there was only a minute of action remaining.
Much of the Trojans’ comeback was fueled by Stanford’s shaky shooting in the second half. Despite being successful on 19-of-29 (65.5%) of field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes of play, the Cardinal only managed to go 9-for-25 in the second. Possible opportunities to score were further limited by weakness on the offensive boards by Stanford; the Cardinal only managed to bring down three offensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes of play, but USC was able to snag seven on the defensive side. Even worse, four of Stanford’s 23 fouls in regulation were pinned on da Silva before the second-half clock had ticked down to 7:00, keeping the 6’9″ forward, who led the team with nine rebounds, largely confined to the bench.
Ultimately, however, Stanford’s fate was sealed by its 17 turnovers, including back-to-back crimes while less than 15 seconds remained before the buzzer and a five-point lead hinted at victory. After converting one turnover into a layup with 11 seconds to go, the Trojans managed to intercept an inbounds pass from Daejon Davis, USC’s Elijah Weaver sank one from behind the arc to guarantee an extra five minutes of action.
Overtime was characterized by the same struggles the Cardinal had battled in the second half and the same success the Trojans had found after the break. A layup by Terry managed to bring the Cardinal within two after USC had pulled ahead, 80-78, but it could not reverse the damage done, and the Cardinal fell 82-78.
WIth a 4-1 record in conference play, Stanford remains at the top of the Pac-12, but now shares the position with the Trojans. Next up for the Cardinal is a Bay-Area battle next Sunday, when Stanford travels to Berkeley, where tip off is set for 3 p.m. PT.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.