Arizona's modus operandi has been to start slow and close strong, so they're not exactly quaking at a one-point halftime deficit. Sure enough, Nick Johnson opens the second half with a three as the Cats go from right to left. But Nastic draws a foul and is true from the charity stripe to reknot us at 33-all. T.J. McConnell then puts up his third airball of the night; these guys look nervous. We're lucky to get them at 20-0 instead of 19-1, because that's a world of difference in terms of pressure, especially for a young squad – and respect if the Cardinal do pull the upset.
Josh Huestis is having an off shooting night, but like Chasson Randle, he's making his impact in other ways. He emphatically blocks a layup on one end, and then steals a possession back for the Cardinal by tying up a ball after a Stanford miss (and somehow avoiding what is called over the back nine of 10 times, but no complaints). Huestis then drains a three, just his third make and Stanford's second three of the night, and the Wildcats take timeout down 36-33 with Maples rocking.
Most of the players on the court have two fouls, so the whistles will take on an outsized importance as we continue to slug through a close game. Zona reties with a three but Dwight Powell rattles home a jumper to reestablish a lead. Randle three the next time down the court, and he has 10 after a slow start. It's Stanford's biggest lead of the night since 9-2, and credit to Coach Dawkins and his staff as the Cardinal start out both halves firing on all cylinders.
Stanford 41, Arizona 36, under-16 timeout
Randle is the only player on either squad to have reached double digits, though all Stanford's starters have at least seven points. The Cardinal have nicely balanced their scoring load, and have picked up some steam offensively this half. After a slow start, the Cardinal are now 15-of-32 overall, just one make shy of 50 percent against the best shooting defense in the land. Stanford is plus-two in rebounds and plus-one in turnovers.
Arizona is also making up for lost time offensively, as Gabe York knocks down a three to pull within two. Stanford's turn to respond, and on a third-chance look – with Stefan Nastic doing well to recover a loose ball – it's Dwight Powell on a putback. Arizona's turn to respond, and Dwight Powell picks up his third (but stays in the game), with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson converting an and-one layup. Poor defensive lapse on the delayed break for the Card.
Stanford's turn to respond, and it's Nastic from the free throw line in what has become an uptempo, back-and-forth affair after a lockdown first half. Josh Huestis sprints to the far baseline to tip a loose ball to a teammate, and this is the exact energy in Maples and on the floor that Stanford fans have longed for throughout the Dawkins era. Tarcewski picks up his third foul and then Powell hits a layup to make Huestis' hustle play count.
Huestis blows a layup on minimal contact, but draws the friendly whistle, Brandon Ashley's third, and hits both free throws. Tarcewski is out for the Cats, and Bill Walton implores the Card to keep pounding it inside. He also pointed out a minute ago that Dwight Powell is fouling every time down the court and that the officials will have to call it eventually. Sure enough, Powell's late to rotate and it's an and-one for Arizona. Powell then hits the bench with four fouls, and in come John Gage and Robbie Lemons.
Stanford 51, Arizona 47, under-12 timeout
Powell's 4-of-6 and Nastic's 4-of-5 tonight, so it's been the beef down low that has been getting the job done for the Cardinal with the starting backcourt 10-of-28. Plus, the Cardinal are now plus-six on the glass. The obvious question then becomes when does Johnny Dawkins bring back in Dwight Powell, currently sitting with four fouls.
Nastic's defender flops but the uncontested three footer spins out. Nastic misses from three feet out the next time down, and Robbie Lemons is beat for a layup and a foul in consecutive possessions. Suffice it to say Powell's absence is hurting. But Stefan Nastic comes through with a block the next possession and then Josh Huestis rattled in an NBA look – a two with his foot on the line fading away with two on the clock and a hand in his face. Nastic draws a charge the next time down the court, and perhaps it wasn't typical Bill Walton hyperbole when he called Nastic the league's most improved player earlier in the game.
Randle gooses a layup, but Arizona then misses a three-foot turnaround, and as long as the Cardinal are treading water with a four-point lead and Dwight Powell on the bench, no complaints whatsoever. Nastic, easily the MVP of the night, then induces foul No. 4 on Tarcewski and Arizona's big man hits the bench. Huestis fumbles away an entry pass, the Cats' Gabe York misses an open three, and it's still a four-point lead with under eight to go, just like it was when Powell exited five minutes earlier.
In comes John Gage, and Stanford spaces nicely to isolate Randle on the larger Brandon Ashley. Randle gets penetration, but Ashley stays close enough to force Randle into an off-balance scoop. This one is coming down to the wire.
Stanford 53, Arizona 51, 6:44 remaining
Both teams have five fouls on the half, with the one-and-one kicking in on foul No. 7 and the double-bonus on the tenth foul of each half in college basketball. Neither team is exceptional from the line, with Stanford 69 percent on the season and Arizona 66 percent. Importantly, Aaron Gordon is 45 percent from the line on 95 attempts on the season should the Cardinal need someone to foul down the stretch.
Arizona rattles off four straight as Anthony Brown has been blocked twice down low within a minute. We're retied, 53-all, and Powell's back in with four fouls. Look for Arizona to go at him. Sure enough, the Cats try to, but Nastic is there to harass Hollis-Jefferson into a miss and snag the rebound. Huestis picks up a questionable blocking foul, and then Powell possibly gets away with a travel to induce a whistle on Johnson. Stanford's in the bonus the rest of the way, but Powell misses both from the line. We stay tied at 53 and Arizona calls timeout at 4:27 as Walton all but calls everyone on the court shrinking violets.
Tarcewski has four fouls while Ashley, McConnell and Gordon each have three for the Cats. Meanwhile, only Powell has more than two fouls for Stanford. Should this one go to overtime, you'd have to think that'd be an advantage for the Card. Meanwhile, Powell was late to rotate and might have been in line to pick up No. 5, but Brandon Ashley was overeager and travelled first.
Stanford 53, Arizona 53, 3:48 remaining
Fans certainly getting their money's worth tonight. Stanford has the homecourt advantage, is in an advantageous position in terms of foul trouble, has possession, has more experience, and is a better free-throw shooting team, but can they close? Here goes…
Off an inbounds play, Huestis can't finish on a lob, Arizona will get a crack at the lead, but Gordon misses an uncontested jumper from the free throw line extended. As Walton points out, the offense has disappeared for both teams, as Huestis blows a layup. Stanford's now at 40 percent on the night with Arizona at 36 percent overall, so whether it's nerves or fatigue, we're not exactly sprinting to the finish here. But Nick Johnson breaks our scoring drought with a floater while he falls to the ground, and after Nastic drops an entry pass out of bounds, the Cardinal have just two points in the last 10 minutes.
Arizona misses a tip from point-blank range which would have been a killer. Powell breaks a six-minute scoring drought with a reverse layup off a baseline drive and we're tied with a minute to go, 55 all.
Nick Johnson hits a three off after a Tarcewski offensive rebound and Stanford takes timeout with 45 seconds left, 33 on the shot clock. Would love to put up a quick shot here to pull off a two-for-one, but we'll see what Stanford dials up. The Cardinal have a foul to give before Arizona's in the one-and-one, and alas Chasson Randle has to commit that foul after missing a layup. Will the Cardinal know to foul Gordon? Anthony Brown picks up the whistle before the in-bounds pass, and it's Nick Johnson to the free throw line. He's an 80 percent free throw shooter, the best on the Arizona roster, so that's a bad move for the Cardinal. One-and-one though and Johnson's 3-of-6 tonight, so anything goes.
Johnson misses! Dawkins calls timeout, so what does Stanford call down three with 25 seconds to go? Arizona won't, but they could intentionally foul here with Stanford in a one-and-one, and plenty of poor free throw shooters in white and red.
Stanford runs the bailout play that's their bread and butter in which Randle drives into one corner and tries to whip it to Gage in the opposite corner. It should be an Arizona turnover, as the Wildcats are in great position, but the ball is batted around, and Gage recovers to kick to Huestis, who clanks the three. But Aaron Gordon is fouled on the rebound, and he's a 45 percent free throw shooter shooting one-and-one in a huge spot.
9-2 Arizona in the last 10:03. Eek. Gordon misses, Huestis rebounds and Arizona does intentionally foul Randle with seven seconds left. Randle swishes a 30-footer well after the whistle, but all for naught. Randle makes both to pull the Cardinal within one, 58-57.
Arizona to inbound and Johnson beats a double team to receive the pass and draw the foul. He's shooting one-and-one up one, 5.8 to go. He nails both, but Randle gets a clean look off with a second to go from three. Strangely, Arizona chose not to foul while Stanford ran it upcourt, but the ploy worked, as Randle draws back iron and the final buzzer sounds. Stanford put forth good effort, but lost from ahead with two points in the final ten-plus minutes. Arizona tried to give it back plenty of times, but the Cardinal went ice-cold down the stretch and refused to take the bait.
Arizona 60, Stanford 57, Final
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