In a game that fans have been itching for on the football field and not the basketball court, Alabama used its physicality to outmuscle Stanford down low and force 14 turnovers en route to a 66-54 win in the second round of the NIT, ending the Cardinal’s season.
Alabama (23-12, 12-6 SEC) started to break the game open after the second media timeout of the first half. The Crimson Tide went on a quick 5-0 run in the first minute out of that break to force Stanford (19-15, 9-9 Pac-12) to call its first timeout of the game.
The Cardinal fought to keep it close from there, never catching Alabama but keeping the lead in single digits for most of the first half. Alabama briefly led by as many as 11 points, but a 3-point jumper from junior guard Robbie Lemons with just over a minute remaining in the half cut the lead to eight heading into the break.
Stanford wouldn’t go down easy. The Card showed fight in the second half, twice cutting the lead to four points before The Crimson Tide began to pull away. Junior forward John Gage’s 3-pointer with 13:10 to play capped a 14-7 run that cut the Alabama lead to four at 42-38. It was one of two made 3-pointers for Gage, who struggled from outside, finishing 2-for-8 from the field, with seven of his eight attempts coming from three-point range.
Overall, Stanford shot the ball reasonably well from three, going 10-29 as a team. Sophomore guard Chasson Randle and junior guard Aaron Bright combined for five 3-pointers on their 12 attempts.
It was the rest of the offense that let the Cardinal down. Stanford shot a worse percentage from two than from three, going 8-for-29 (27.6 percent) on shots from inside the arc. Randle and Bright were not immune from that trend, making only one of seven non-3-pointers combined.
Lemons (10) and Randle (11) were the only two Cardinal players who finished in double figures. Alabama finished with four players with 10 or more points, including a game-high 16 from Levi Randolph and 14 big bench points from Retin Obasohan.
Stanford made one last push to extend its season late in the game. With 5:41 to play, a Bright three-point jumper put the Cardinal within four of Alabama for the second time in the second half. But Alabama responded with a 7-0 run over the next 3:21 to put the game out of reach.
Alabama moves on to face Maryland Tuesday night for a berth in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. For Stanford, it’s just a long trip home to Palo Alto before getting back to work for next season. Head coach Johnny Dawkins will be back, but he will need an NCAA Tournament berth, not a third straight trip to the NIT, to coach beyond the 2013-14 season.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher “at” stanford.edu.