Stanford head coach Jerod Haase and his Stanford men’s basketball team must have breathed a sigh of relief in the locker room after Sunday night’s thrilling 84-83 win over Arizona State in Tempe. A wildly exciting and competitive finish to the conference season, it wasn’t until the final seconds that Stanford was sure to emerge from the desert with a victory.
The Cardinal (17-14, 11-7 Pac-12) dominated the Sun Devils (20-10, 8-10 Pac-12) for large stretches in both the first and second half, but allowed Arizona State to climb back into the game. Tied at 82 with just more than 40 seconds remaining, freshman point guard Daejon Davis spun and wove his way toward the basket, laying it in to give the Cardinal the lead for good.
Even then, Arizona State had an opportunity to tie the game. After a pair of missed Cardinal free throws, the Sun Devils had a chance at the basket that rattled off the rim at the horn.
The second half was defined by scoring bursts by both teams. Stanford went on a 14-1 run to start the second half, but Arizona State responded with an 18-4 run of their own. Senior Dorian Pickens, who scored 20 second-half points for the Cardinal, responded with three three-pointers to put the Cardinal up 72-58.
After another Sun Devils rally, though, Davis set up at the top of the key, before cutting to his right and spinning his way through traffic. Davis had eight points for the Cardinal.
Stanford’s big men led the way on Sunday. Senior forward Reid Travis, a leader for the Cardinal all season, led all scorers with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman forward KZ Okpala added 18 points and ten rebounds. Okpala did most of his offensive damage in the first half, scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
It was Pickens, though, who provided the second-half spark that helped the Cardinal close out a successful conference season. Pickens played high school basketball in Phoenix and playing in front of a number of friends and family, his second-half performance from beyond the arc was the deciding factor in the game.
The Cardinal needed all five made threes from Pickens because they were shooting themselves in the foot over and over again with 15-second half turnovers. The Sun Devils scored 30 points off turnovers compared to Stanford’s 11. Especially when Davis subbed out, Stanford’s ability to move the basketball fell apart.
Many teams have used the full court press against the Cardinal, and Arizona State used it to great effect in the second half to force Stanford turnovers.
Although Sunday’s game was shaping up to be important for Stanford’s seeding in the upcoming conference tournament, even with the victory, Stanford was unable to snag a top-four seed (and the resulting first round bye). The team is seeded fifth in the conference and will face Cal on Wednesday to kick off the tournament.
Stanford’s only chance at an NCAA tournament berth lies in a run to a conference tournament championship. That journey begins Wednesday versus Cal in Las Vegas and — if Stanford can keep the momentum going — would end on Saturday night.
The Cardinal have struggled against the Golden Bears this season. They lost the first game at home despite being up by 11 points with three minutes left and they barely won the second game by four points.
Wednesday’s game begins at 2 p.m. and will be streamed live on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Gregory Block at gblock ‘at’ stanford.edu.