Freshman guard Daejon Davis’ game-tying three with four seconds left just missed as Stanford men’s basketball (11-10, 5-3 Pac-12) fell to USC (16-6, 7-2) in a grinding 69-64 road loss on Wednesday evening.
The Trojans came out of the gate strong, taking advantage of Trojans forward Chimezie Metu’s strength down low and guard Jonah Matthew’s pure outside stroke (the sophomore finished 4-6 from three with 18 points). USC held a 41-26 lead at the break. The Cardinal, though, punched back in the second half. Oscar Da Silva nailed three three-point shots, and senior guard Dorian Pickens was perfect from the line. The team shot 11-11 on free throws in the second period.
At one point down 15, Stanford found themselves down three with thirty seconds remaining. Davis, a critical part of the Cardinal’s surprising run in the Pac-12 this season, faltered in the clutch. First, he passed up a driving layup, trying to shovel the ball to senior forward Reid Travis on the perimeter. Trojans guard Jordan McLaughlin pick-pocketed the pass, but then bailed Stanford out by missing both free throws. On the ensuing possession, Davis missed a good look from behind the center of the arc. The Trojans gained possession and drained a lay-up through the press defense as time expired.
Stanford’s third Pac-12 loss illustrates the importance of a healthy Davis to this team. Coming off an injury in the Arizona game, the 6-3 guard just did not look himself tonight. He played just 24 minutes, finishing with six points and more turnovers (3) than assists (2). Moreover with Davis not at full strength, Pickens struggled to find space from downtown. After six games of hot shooting, the senior cooled down against USC. While the Arizona native manufactured 14 points, he was only 3-11 from the field and 2-9 from downtown.
However, Stanford can take some silver linings into their contest against UCLA on Saturday. For one, clearly the team did not click today, even with freshman guard Kezie Okpala (1-4 from the field, three points), Pickens and Davis struggling. Under these conditions and a slow start on the road, the Cardinal still managed to give themselves a chance to win against a top Pac-12 team in the final minute.
Stanford’s three point defense, additionally, continued to make strides. The Cardinal held USC to just 25 percent from behind the three point line. They also out-rebounded the Trojans, and most Pac-12 teams do not have a big as talented as Metu. Finally, Travis (16 points, nine rebounds) and senior forward Michael Humphrey (14 points, 6 rebounds) provided stability in the paint for Stanford and scored easy layups and dunks when the team needed a basket.
At the very least, by hanging with both Arizona at home and USC on the road, Stanford has proven that it is a top-tier Pac-12 team. The Cardinal have another chance to strengthen their resume Saturday against the UCLA Bruins (13-7, 4-4) in Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Quinn Barry at qmbarry ‘at’ stanford.edu.