On a late Saturday afternoon, the Stanford Cardinal were looking to finally break out of a long slide of losing on the road with a victory at the Galen Center versus the USC Trojans. The last time these teams played at Maples, Stanford blew a seven-point lead in the last minutes of play, but managed to escape with a one-point win after the Trojans missed two shots in the final three seconds of play. This time around, the home team was able to get an offensive rebound and tip-in to go with 26 seconds left, then held on for the win as USC defeated Stanford 54-49. The Trojans move to 14-9, 6-5 in conference play, while the Cardinal drop to 10-13, 4-7 in the Pacific-10 Conference.
Stanford got off to a slow start, allowing USC to hit three jumpers, including a three-pointer from Marcus Johnson, and a dunk by Nikola Vucevic off a nice feed from Mike Gerrity, prompting head coach Johnny Dawkins to call a time out with the Trojans up 9-2 less than four minutes into the game. The next possession out of the break saw Dwight Lewis harass Jeremy Green into a turnover near the half-court line, further highlighting the doldrums Stanford appeared to be in early in the contest. Going into the first media timeout, Stanford already had turned the ball over four times against the Trojans defense, but the visitors steadied themselves in that area over the next few minutes, but the Cardinal could not hit the broad side of the barn, falling further behind the home team. The microcosm moment of the season on the road occurred just before the next media timeout where Dildy corralled a loose ball and went to the hoop for an easy layup which rimmed out. Landry Fields attempted to go over the top for the rebound, but was undercut by his own man Jack Trotter, losing the ball out of bounds.
The Cardinal's struggles offensively continued after the next media break, laying the foundation for a nice home to be built inside the Galen Center, with only an Emmanuel Igbinosa three-pointer between Fields jumpers over a 7:01 stretch to show any life on the scoreboard. Fortunately, USC was also not as potent as they could have been on the offensive end, only holding a 22-9 lead with 8:16 remaining in the first half. If Stanford could start to hit some shots, maybe they could get back into the game, and that's exactly what happened as the Cardinal suddenly caught fire, outscoring the Trojans 14-0 over the next 3:03 to take their first lead of the game, 23-22. The stretch was highlighted by four three-pointers, including two from the unlikeliest of sources, big man Jack Trotter, giving him his first two attempts and makes of the season. USC finally stopped the bleeding on a Vucevic layup and went back up three with just over two minutes left before a Fields offensive rebound and jumper in the lane left the Cardinal behind by one, 27-26, going into halftime.
For the half, Stanford shot just 33% from the field, but made 63% (5-8) of their three-pointers, to help keep the game close. The Cardinal were just 1-2 at the free throw line. USC finished the half at 38% from the field, 17% (1-6) beyond the arc, and 4-6 (67%) at the charity stripe. Stanford and USC both grabbed 18 rebounds, with the home team getting one more offensive rebound than the good guys. The Cardinal tallied seven assists and seven turnovers, while the Trojans dished out four assists, but gave away the ball six times. USC also had seven blocks at the break, while Stanford had none.
Fields again led the way for Stanford with 14 points on 6-13 shooting, while also snaring nine rebounds for the visitors. Trotter had six points, while Shiller and Igbinosa scored three apiece. USC's leading scorer was Vucevic with 10 on 4-8 shooting from the field. Next in line was Leonard Washington and Marcus Johnson, netting five points each.
The second half began with a blown layup by Trotter, but the Cardinal still got the lead after Jarrett Mann grabbed a loose ball and zinged a pass inside for a Fields dunk. USC came back with five in a row over a long stretch, including a Gerrity straightaway three-pointer and two Washington free throws. Mann made two free throws of his own, but Vucevic went inside for an easy two to give the Trojans a four-point advantage going into the first media break of the second half.
Momentum is a finicky thing in basketball and USC seemed to swat it right back to themselves after Washington blocked a Fields dunk attempt when it looked like the senior had a clear path to the basket and a chance to cut the lead in half. Gerrity turned the block into a fast break layup, then Washington dropped out of the sky to stuff a missed Johnson jumper, bringing the home crowd to its feet and public address announcer Petros Papadakis' voice to a fever pitch. Da'Veed Dildy stopped the run with a pretty offensive rebound and tip-in, but Gerrity countered with a jumper of his own to keep the lead at eight with 12:02 to go. However, the Dildy play seemed to inspire Stanford as they went on an 8-0 streak, including three-pointers by Fields and Shiller, to knot the score up at 40 with 9:36 to go. The Shiller shot, and lack of stoppage in play, prompted USC head coach Kevin O'Neill to call a timeout to give his team a breather and stop the newly founded momentum the Cardinal had gained over his team.
Fields made two free throws after the long-awaited media timeout, then made a heads-up play after a Jeremy Green miss where he faked going up the court and stole a pass by Alex Stephenson intended for Gerrity. Fields then drew a foul going inside against the North Carolina transfer, netting the senior star two more free throw attempts and makes after the subsequent break for TV under the eight-minute mark. Both teams went cold for a couple of minutes, missing shots and free throws, until USC countered with consecutive shots made by Vucevic and Johnson to tie the game up again at 44. Fields was perfect on a tough, long two-pointer from the left wing, but Vucevic gathered in a pass by Johnson to tie the game up once more before a foul inside on USC on Fields stopped the game with 3:31 to go due to the last mandated timeout of the game.
After a long miss by Fields, Gerrity made a tough move inside and dropped the ball over a pack of taller players to give the Trojans back the lead for the first time since the 11-minute mark of the second half. After a 30-second timeout, Stanford was able to get the ball to Shiller, but his was shot was blocked by Gerrity at the three-point arc, leading to a foul by the Burlingame senior. However, Gerrity missed both freebies and Green finally hit his first shot of the game, coming off a screen to make a long three-pointer from the right wing over Dwight Lewis to put Stanford back on top, 49-48, with 1:55 to go in the game. Stanford had a chance to go up by three of four after a miss by Vucevic, but Fields was off the side of the rim with the shot clock winding down.
The home team called a timeout with 55 seconds left to set up their opportunity to take the lead back. In a scene which nearly mirrored the end of the game at Maples, USC needed three tip-ins, but this time around, got the ball to finally go in after a second offensive rebound and shot by Vucevic hit the iron several times before falling, putting USC up 50-49 with 26 ticks left. Following a 30-second timeout, Green launched a long two-pointer from the right wing, but couldn't get it to fall. Fields fouled Johnson with 7.4 seconds left, allowing them perhaps one last chance depending on what the 53% free throw shooter would do at the free throw line. The first one was a swish, but the second one was a brick that somehow fell after falling flat on the back rim, giving USC a three-point lead. Mann was fouled coming up the court (USC had one to give), letting the Cardinal call a timeout with 5.2 seconds left at the half-court stripe. Fields was fouled nearly immediately after the inbounds, not allowing him to try the three-pointer from straight away. Unfortunately, Fields missed the front end of the one-and-one, ending Stanford's chances to pull off their first road win of the year.
Stanford shot just 30% from the field, including 24% inside the three-point arc and 42% outside the line, while making 7-9 (78%) at the free throw line. USC made 38% of their shots, 42% inside the three-point line and 20% outside the stripe, but hit on just 59% (10-17) from the free throw line. The Trojans outrebounded Stanford 38-35 as both teams grabbed 11 offensive rebounds on the evening. Stanford had 11 assists and 10 turnovers, while USC had seven assists and nine turnovers. USC outscored the Cardinal in the paint, 32-12, and got 14 second chance points to Stanford's eight.
Fields was the only player in double-figures for Stanford, getting another double-double (27 points and 11 rebounds) on 10-19 shooting from the field. Trotter and Shiller both were next on the score sheet with six each, the latter grabbing six rebounds in the contest. Dildy had just two points, but had a team high five assists and zero turnovers. USC was led by Vucevic's 18 points and 14 boards on 8-14 shooting from the field. Gerrity scored 11 for the Trojans, while Johnson and Washington finished with nine for the victors.
Stanford will try to break the four-game losing streak on Thursday night as
they will take on head coach Ken Bone and the Washington State Cougars at
7:00pm. Last time these two teams played, WSU raced out to 20-point lead
in the first half, but had to hold off a furious rally by Stanford to get the
win in Pullman, 77-73. Stay tuned to The Bootleg for more coverage of what
has been a roller-coaster season for the Stanford men's basketball team in
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