Coming off a big win over conference rival California, the Stanford men’s basketball team (11-8, 2-4 Pac-12) wanted to prove to the entire Pac-12 that they are a force to be reckoned with.
A win against Colorado (13-6, 3-4 Pac-12), which came within a controversial buzzer-beating three-pointer of upsetting No. 6 Arizona, would have done just that. Shooting 31 percent from the floor, being outrebounded 48-30 and losing 75-54 was certainly not the way to get it done.
The first half was a period of runs, as both the Buffaloes and the Cardinal were able to put together solid stretches of play. The Buffs struck first, opening the game on a quick 9-0 run. Sophomore guard Askia Booker led the way, knocking down an open jumper and then driving to the hoop for a layup. A three-pointer for Stanford by junior guard Aaron Bright helped the Cardinal cut into the lead, but the Buffaloes continued to push the ball up the court, jumping out to a 16-5 lead just under five minutes into the game.
The Cardinal then stormed back, going on a balanced 10-2 run. Senior forward Andy Brown and senior guard Gabriel Harris knocked down back-to-back shots, pulling the Card to within seven. Forward Dwight Powell then drew a foul and converted on the free throw to complete the three-point play. With 13:14 remaining in the half, sophomore guard Chasson Randle knocked down his first three-pointer of the game, cutting Colorado’s advantage to 18-15.
However, Colorado would have the last laugh, closing out the half with a bang. The Buffs outplayed Stanford for the remainder of the first period, dominating both in the paint and on the offensive glass.
After freshman Rosco Allen converted a layup off a nice pass from Bright, Colorado forward Xavier Johnson finished the half with an exclamation point. After a jumper from Josh Scott with just three seconds left rattled off the rim, Johnson skied to grab the offensive rebound and then threw down a monstrous dunk just as time expired. This play perfectly exemplified a first half in which Stanford was dominated around the basket.
The second half looked to be a similar story early on, as the Cardinal could not find an answer for the Buffaloes’ offensive attack. With 14 minutes remaining, Colorado junior forward Andre Roberson found teammate Johnson under the hoop, where Johnson finished with a dunk. This put Colorado up 54-26, forcing Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins to call a timeout.
A new team came out after the break. The Card demonstrated a defensive prowess and offensive fluidity that would have had Dick Vitale jumping out of his seat. Stanford went on a 10-0 run, beginning with a Powell layup and jumper. Allen then converted on a three-point play, followed shortly after by a three-pointer from Randle. Suddenly up by only eight, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle called a timeout.
Boyle certainly lit a fire under his squad, as the Buffs came out with a vengeance. Behind an outstanding performance from Roberson, they blew the Cardinal out of the water for the rest of the second half. Colorado dominated Stanford on both ends of the floor, attacking the hoop and dominating in the paint en route to a 75-54 victory. They overwhelmed the Card with their aggressive play down low as well as their stout defensive effort.
“We kept emphasizing how bad they beat us last year,” Booker said. “Definitely, (revenge) was on our mind.”
Stanford had no answer for Roberson, the man who shocked many by turning down a trip to the NBA draft to return to Colorado for his junior season. The forward terrorized the Cardinal under the basket.
“We had a lot to prove,” Roberson said. “Last year they gave us the business. This year we put it to them.”
Despite scoring only 12 points, Roberson made his mark on the game in a variety of other ways. He tied a career-high by grabbing 20 rebounds, as the Stanford forwards could not get position on him under the basket. He added a game-high 3 blocks, a mark which, by itself, surpassed Stanford’s total (1). He also led all players with 3 steals, and even managed to dish out a couple of assists.
“Twenty rebounds by Andre—that’s ridiculous,” Booker said.
Still, the Card showed glimpses of a team that could certainly contend in the Pac-12 and possibly even earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament in March. They will need to demonstrate more consistency and play with a higher level of intensity to do so.
Stanford will resume its quest for a tournament berth this weekend, as the Card travels to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Utes on Sunday.