The Stanford men’s basketball team (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12) knew that if it was going to come away with a victory on the road against No. 3 Arizona, it was going to have to play its best basketball of the season. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, Stanford could not muster its best effort, particularly early on, resulting in a 79-66 loss to the Wildcats (27-2, 14-2) on Sunday night.
Arizona clinched a Pac-12 title outright with the victory, giving coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats their second conference crown in four seasons. It was Arizona’s ninth consecutive win against Stanford, a stretch dating back to Jan. 4, 2009, and barring a postseason meeting between these two teams, Arizona will remain the only conference opponent that Stanford’s departing senior class of Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell, John Gage, Aaron Bright, Andy Brown, Anthony Brown and Robbie Lemons has failed to defeat during its time on the Farm.
The same slow start that doomed the Cardinal against Arizona State on Wednesday was again the issue for Stanford on Sunday, as the underdogs fell behind early and never recovered. Arizona jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the first five minutes of the game, thanks in large part to Stanford’s sloppy offensive execution, and never looked back. The Wildcats extended the lead to as much as 18 in the first half before a five-point spurt by Anthony Brown cut the margin to 13 at halftime.
Stanford shot just 36 percent in the first half and turned the ball over eight times, including seven times in the first ten minutes of the game. Against a team, and a defense, of Arizona’s caliber, that simply wasn’t going to do it for the Cardinal.
The Cardinal wasted another terrific effort by Huestis, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds in the loss, marking the second time in a week that Huestis has matched his career high in points. It was also the senior forward’s seventh double-double effort of the year, tying him with fellow senior Dwight Powell for most on the team this season.
Brown had yet another solid outing for Stanford, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with six rebounds and four assists. The problem for Stanford was that outside of its starting wings, few others performed to the level necessary to compete with a top-three team in its home arena.
Outside of Huestis and Brown, the rest of the Cardinal shot just 27.3 percent. Stanford’s bench was once again invisible, as five reserves combined for just four points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block—plus two turnovers and five fouls—in 55 minutes of play. This lack of production continually places a heavy burden on Stanford’s starting five, and it was on full display on Sunday when three-fifths of Stanford’s first unit struggled.
Powell struggled mightily for most of the game, shooting just 3-of-13 from the floor on his way to 12 points and eight rebounds.
Junior Chasson Randle, the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, finished well shy of his season average by scoring just 12 points. He also added four turnovers to Stanford’s tally, all of them coming during the Cardinal’s disastrous first half.
Redshirt junior Stefan Nastic fouled out while only playing 13 minutes. He finished with just two points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Star freshman Aaron Gordon, who had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, and junior T.J. McConnell, who added 14 points and four assists, led Arizona on Sunday night. The two anchored a swarming defensive unit that created all kinds of havoc for Stanford’s offense and continues to shut down opposing offenses.
The Cardinal will look to get back on the winning track in its quest for an NCAA tournament berth in its final two games of the regular season next week, when it hosts Colorado and Utah.
Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.