What looked like impending disaster for Stanford turned into a potential turning point for the Cardinal.
With seven minutes left in Wednesday’s game against Washington State at Maples Pavilion, Stanford trailed by five points, and losing at home to a team that was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 and had shown in nonconference play it might even be worse than that might have been the death knell for Stanford’s postseason hopes. The Cardinal was already 0-2 in the conference after losing to UCLA and USC on the road and going to 0-3 with improving Washington coming into Maples on Saturday could have been a crushing blow.
But the Cardinal (10-6) not only dominated the Cougars (9-6) over the next 6 1/2 minutes, outscoring them 30-13 over that span for a 78-67 victory, but Stanford did it by getting its slumping guards out of their shooting slumps.
Chasson Randle scored six of his 16 points in the final seven minutes, and he was 5-for-8 from the field, including 2-for-3 on three-pointers, for the game.
Aaron Bright finished with a season-high 21 points, scoring 10 of his points in the final seven minutes. And although his total was padded with a bunch of free throws in the closing minutes when Washington State was forced to foul, it was a turnaround game for Bright, who hit 3 of 4 three-point shots.
Having Bright and Randle shooting well is a big deal for the Cardinal, which can’t win without getting perimeter offense from those two.
Randle had been 7-for-25 from the field in the Cardinal’s first two conference games, and he looked hesitant, having been in a shooting slump all season. He’s still shooting just 25 percent on three-pointers, but he’s 4-for-8 from long range in the past two games, which is encouraging.
“It was good to see the ball go in,” Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins said regarding Randle. “You could see it coming. He’s had good practices and he’s been productive.”
Bright was shooting just 31.7 percent coming into Wednesday’s game, including 22.2 percent on three-pointers, and had scored in double figures only three times this season. So a breakout game by him was much needed. Bright seems healthy now after being slowed by an ankle injury for much of the season.
Bright had other motivation when the Cardinal trailed.
“I was thinking, if we lose, practice is going to be awful,” he said, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
The Cardinal desperately needed Randle and Bright to find their offense.
For the second straight game, Johnny Dawkins started the game with the odd one-guard lineup, with Randle the only guard in the game at the outset. But Randle and Bright were in the game together for much of the contest this time, and the Cardinal even used a three-guard set at times.
Dwight Powell had a solid game with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and he is having fewer of those games when he simply disappears.
A consistent Powell and scoring from Bright and Randle are what will make the Cardinal an NCAA Tournament team.
It also needs to play defense, and holding the Cougars scoreless for a vital stretch of nearly four minutes late in the game was pivotal. It allowed the Cardinal to overcome a four-point deficit with 5:48 left and take an 11-point lead with two minutes.
But more impressive was the fact that Stanford scored 30 points in a span of 6:21 with the game on the line.
The Cardinal ranked ninth in the conference in scoring at 69.5 a game before Wednesday, and it did not get its 30th point of the game until it was two minutes into the second half.
But with the Cardinal down 53-48 with less than seven minutes left, Stanford poured in 30 points to take a 78-65 lead with 32 seconds to go.