Pac-12 Tournament: Chasson Randle's clutch three sends Stanford into quarterfinals
LAS VEGAS – Phew, that was close. Maybe a little too close for Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins.
But the Cardinal men's basketball team will live to see another day.
In an intense nightcap to the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament, Stanford guard Chasson Randle drilled a game-winning three-pointer with just 2.4 seconds left to give his team a 71-69 victory over Washington on Wednesday night at the MGM Grand Arena.
"One, he believes in himself. Two, his teammates and our staff believe in him," Dawkins said. "He's going to take big shots for us. You've seen that throughout his career and that's not changing. He stepped up tonight and made a big one for us."
Randle didn't need to shoot a three for a win, but it's not like he had much time to think. After Dan Kingma missed a free throw at the other end with 29 seconds left, Stanford set up for one final possession trailing 69-68. It didn't look good when Rosco Allen missed his jumper with eight seconds left, but Marcus Allen picked up a huge offensive rebound on the baseline and dished it out to Randle, who nailed the shot to send Stanford into the quarterfinals.
It's remarkable that Randle had the confidence to hoist such a high-pressure shot, as he has been ice cold for over a month. Up until the point of his game-winner, Randle was only 2-of-10 from the field. With his 3-of-11 (.273) shooting night, Randle has now shot 33.3 percent or worse in 10 straight games. But he made the bucket that counted.
"I don't think about it," Randle said of his recent cold streak. "Every shot is a new shot. You can't think about the last one. My teammates, they kept telling me to shoot. I believe in what they were saying and I believe in myself. I was able to hit the big one."
It was an emotional evening for Randle, as he was also named Student-Athlete of the Year and got to enjoy the victory with his parents.
Randle's shot will make all the headlines, but Dawkins also made sure to give praise to Marcus Allen, who grabbed the night's biggest offensive rebound despite being listed at 6-foot-3.
"What he brings to our team is a tenacity," Dawkins said. "He's going to be relentless when he's out there."
The No. 7 seed Cardinal are set for a date with third-seeded Utah on Thursday night (8:30 p.m PT on ESPN) as Stanford tries to keep its hopes alive for the NCAA tournament. Given its inconsistency this year and 19-12 record, it appears Stanford's only shot at reaching the Big Dance is with an automatic berth by winning the Pac-12 Tournament.
The first order of business is to take down Utah, which is ranked No. 17 in the country and features one of the conference's toughest teams.
"At this point, it's win or go home," Randle said. "They're all meaningful to us. Just got to take it one game at a time. We have to prepare as soon as we leave this podium and make sure we come out focused tomorrow."
It looked like Wednesday's game was going to turn in Washington's favor during a key sequence with about four minutes left. It started when Stanford's Anthony Brown missed a fast-break dunk when he was all alone, leading to a Nigel Williams-Goss three-pointer on the other end just a few seconds later. The next time down the floor, Jernard Jarreau drilled a trifecta for the Huskies, giving them a 69-64 lead at the 3:25 mark. But Washington wouldn't score another point the rest of the way.
[Related photos: Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament first round]
The Huskies haven't been the same since Robert Upshaw was suspended in late January. As such, Stanford tried to exploit their size advantage down low with Stefan Nastic. The senior center stayed aggressive throughout the night, finishing with 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting while grabbing five rebounds.
"I just played to play my role as best as possible, no matter who we're playing," Nastic said. "Just want to fill the role that my team needs me to, and I'm getting better at that."
Midway through the second half, Andrew Andrews started to take over on offense for the Huskies, rattling off nine straight points during one stretch to give Washington a 60-55 lead with 8:53 left. He posted a game-high 22 points, including 15 in the second half, but it wasn't enough for Washington.
At halftime, the score was knotted at 32-32. Kingma, a Washington walk-on freshman, stole the spotlight in the first half and kept his Huskies in the game by catching fire from beyond the arc. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 152 pounds, he was the biggest player on the floor for the Huskies in the first period, going 3-for-3 from long range. But he didn't score the rest of the game, and clearly felt a lot of responsibility for the loss once he dust settled.
If Kingma was able to knock down two free throws with 29 seconds left, Stanford would have had no chance at going ahead on the final posession. But that's the way the ball bounces.
"I thought [Kingma] had highs and one low," UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He missed one free throw. Everything else I thought was positive."
The Huskies won their first 11 games of the year and moved as high as No. 13 in the Associated Press top 25 poll, but couldn't keep it together once Upshaw left the team. Now the Huskies will likely have to wait to see what their postseason fate will be.
"It started of great, then we went on a little roller coaster ride," Andrews said of Washington's season. "But, that's part of basketball. That's part of life. You have your ups and you have your downs. You just have to find a way to fight through them."