Josh Owens brought Maples Pavilion back to its glory days on Thursday night, tipping in a missed Jeremy Green three-point attempt with 29 seconds left as the Stanford men’s basketball team upset No. 17 Washington, 58-56, creating a three-way tie in the loss column atop the Pac-10 Conference.
“I just tried to make a play,” Owens said. “I personally thought the shot was going in. I got good position on my man and got a fortunate roll.”
The Huskies (12-4, 4-1 Pac-10) are the highest-ranked team defeated by the Cardinal (10-5, 3-1) in head coach Johnny Dawkins’ tenure.
“I thought it was a terrific game,” Dawkins said. “Both teams came out and played with a lot of heart. It was a defensive battle by both teams and we were fortunate in the end.”
The Stanford defense was staunch throughout, holding the Huskies’ scoring offense–ranked third in the nation coming into the game–to nearly 33 points below its season average. The Cardinal forced 15 turnovers, including two key blocks by Owens in the final minutes, and made crucial stops down the stretch to close what was once an 11-point Washington lead.
When asked about the difference in the game, junior guard Green was quick to respond.
“Defense,” he said. “That’s why we win games.”
After a traveling violation by Stanford freshman forward Dwight Powell, the Huskies had a chance to tie or win the game with 1.1 seconds left. Washington found the hot hand in senior forward Justin Holiday, but his contested shot fell short to seal the game for the Card.
The game didn’t look promising from the tip, as three minutes of scoreless play to begin the game were marred by sloppy play by both squads. Stanford finally found its rhythm, thanks in large part to the effort of Owens, who led the Cardinal with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
The junior dominated the Washington big men in the first half with a series of baseline jumpers and a soft touch around the rim. He was also responsible for a potential highlight of the year–a one-handed slam over seven-foot Washington center Aziz N’Diaye that sent the crowd at Maples Pavilion into a frenzy.
“To tell you the truth I didn’t think I was going to dunk it at first,” Owens said. “I beat my man off the dribble and I just realized, ‘Hey, why not try to finish strong,’ and just went up.”
The Cardinal led by as many as six points in the opening half, but Washington hung tough behind play from junior guard Isaiah Thomas. The reigning Pac-10 Tournament most outstanding player left Stanford freshman Aaron Bright befuddled and single-handedly kept his team in the game despite foul trouble from his star teammate, junior forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
Stanford led by three with just seconds left in the half, but a Thomas floater over the outstretched arms of Cardinal freshman forward Dwight Powell at the buzzer closed the gap to 29-28. Despite losing most of its lead, the Cardinal managed to keep the Huskies’ high-powered offense to just 35.7-percent shooting.
Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar’s halftime adjustments paid off immediately for his squad. The Huskies, behind consecutive threes from senior forward Justin Holiday, began to pull away in the first 10 minutes of the second period, leading by as many as 11 points with 10:37 left on the clock.
However, the home team wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Down 51-41 with 8:55 remaining in the game, Stanford went on a run of its own. Aggressive play by Owens and junior guard Jarrett Mann, coupled with freshman forward Anthony Brown’s putback, brought the Cardinal within a point with 4:17 to go.
A three by Green gave Stanford its first lead since the 18:43 mark in the second half, and the team never looked back.
With just 2.5 seconds left in the game, Holiday had a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws. He missed the front end, and despite the regaining of possession by the Huskies, Stanford’s defense proved too suffocating.
“I think we did a great job on every possession,” Dawkins said. “We really focused in on defense and made it as difficult on them as we could to make any baskets.”
Despite one of the most memorable wins in recent history, Stanford has just one day to regroup. The Cardinal is set to host Washington State at 5 p.m. on Saturday.