With coach Johnny Dawkins facing an NCAA tournament or else edict, the Stanford Cardinal started this season winning the games they were supposed to win, but falling short when they stepped up in weight class.
Going into Wednesday night’s game with 10th-ranked and unbeaten Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., the Cardinal were 8-2, but the two losses were a home-court defeat at the hands of BYU and a 21-point beat down courtesy of Pittsburgh in the final of the Legends Classic last month.
Their season might have hung in the balance at halftime, when they were staring up at a 38-28 deficit to the Huskies.
And Stanford responded.
The Cardinal held UConn to just 13 second-half points on 5-for-30 shooting and got just enough offense to get over the hump, stunning the Huskies 53-51.
Connecticut closed the first half on a 14-3 run after Stanford took a 25-24 lead with 4:55 to go to open a 10-point halftime lead and the Cardinal fell down by as many as 13 points early in the second half.
But they chipped away and defended like crazy, taking their first lead with 9:09 remaining on a Josh Huestis jumper that made it 46-45.
UConn battled back to take a 49-48 lead until Chasson Randle sank a jumper with 6:14 left that put Stanford back on to 50-49.
The Cardinal would never trail again. Randle made a layup with 3:35 to go to give the Cardinal a 52-49 lead and Huestis hit a free throw with 29 seconds left to put Stanford back up two at 53-51.
The Huskies had their chances. Shabazz Napier missed a potential game-tying jumper with 11 seconds left and after Huestis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with eight seconds left, Omar Calhoun got off a 3-pointer with two seconds left that was off target, giving Stanford the come-from-behind road win.
Randle led the Cardinal (9-2) with 22 points, Huestis added 13 and 10 rebounds and Dwight Powell managed 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots despite shooting just 4-for-18. Stefan Nastic and John Gage each blocked two shots, as well.
DeAndre Daniels had 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks for UConn (9-1) and Napier had 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Lasan Kromah also grabbed five boards while Phillip Nolan and Amida Brimah joined the block party with two apiece.
Stanford was just 21-for-60 (35 percent) overall, but 6-for-15 (40 percent) from 3-point land and 5-for-12 (41.7 percent) from the foul line. The Cardinal also outrebounded the Huskies, 43-41.
UConn was even worse, 19-for-60 (31.7 percent), 6-fot-22 (27.3 percent) and 7-for-10 (70 percent).
The Cardinal continue their East Coast trip on Saturday when they face Michigan (6-4) at the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Stanford played two games in Brooklyn last month at the Legends Classic. Tipoff Saturday is 5:30 p.m. Pacific.
Topics: Stanford Cardinal