By Rich Ruben
Before the largest and loudest home crowd of the season, the Trojans came back from a 20 point halftime deficit to force overtime in the last few seconds and then completed the comeback winning 82-78. The Trojans have now won 9 of their last 10 games. The first half could not have been worse. SC made only nine shots from the field and none from three, and converted only 7-12 from the line. Meanwhile, the Cardinal looked like the PAC 12 leaders they were coming in, shooting 65% from the field and 6-9 from three, in building a seemingly insurmountable 45-25 halftime lead. The Trojans went eight minutes without a basket during one stretch. The half ended with Stanford star freshman point guard Tyrell Terry making a three from 25 feet at the buzzer.
At half time I was thinking that this looked like a third blowout loss on the year, and could hurt SC’s tournament chances. But what a difference after the break. Elijah Weaver, who was tremendous down the stretch, said it best after the game: “We have a lot of resilience,” and it showed up in this win.
The Cardinal had their largest lead of the game seconds into the second half at 21. The Trojans got on a run and closed to within 8 at the media timeout with 13 1/2 minutes left, and the crowd was loud and into the game. But over the next 4 minutes Stanford built the lead back to 15, and for the second time it looked like the Trojans were done.
SC began to chip away, closing to 62-60 with just under 5 minutes left and the crowd roaring. Minutes later, Stanford’s front court star Oscar da Silva hit a three and the lead was back to 7 at the 2:21 mark. Jonah Mathews made two shots but Stanford still led by 5 and had the ball to inbound with 15 seconds left, and once again the game appeared to be over. Then the miracles started. Ethan Anderson made a tremendous play to steal the inbound pass by da Silva and save it onto the court which led to a basket by Big O to pull with 3 with 11 seconds left. On the next inbound pass from Terry, Jonah stole ball and found Elijah Weaver for a contested three which he drained and was fouled with 7 seconds to go. Two steals and 5 points in 8 seconds! Incredibly the Trojans had a chance to win in regulation but Elijah missed the free throw.
Halfway through the overtime period the score was still tied, but an old fashioned three point play by Elijah, a jump shot from Jonah, and three more free throws and one more final field goal by Elijah gave SC a 4 point lead with 14 seconds left. After a quick Stanford bucket, Daniel Utomi made two free throws to close the game out.
The win gives the Trojans a 15-3 record, and a tie with Stanford for the conference lead at 4-1. Every other PAC 12 team has at least 2 losses. The win will result in a jump in SC’s NET ranking and a lot more votes in the next AP poll.
Several of the Trojans had big games and big plays. Onyeka led SC with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Stanford double teamed him every time he got the ball inside, but he still was 8-11 from the field and 6-7 from the line. Jonah finished with 19 points including 2 threes, with most of his production coming late in the game. Elijah was the best player on the court in the last minutes of regulation and overtime, finishing 4-9 from the field and 4-5 from the line for 13 points. Ethan also played very well making 5-9 from the field for 11 points along with 4 assists, no TOs, one very big steal in the final seconds of regulation, and a block of a final three point shot to force overtime.
What We Learned About The Trojans
– Andy said after the game that he has not been part of many games like this one. He said he tried to use his Dad’s deep voice at halftime and that he did a lot of very loud yelling. I asked Elijah what Andy had said to the team at halftime. With a grin, Elijah said that he couldn’t tell us, but that Andy got after them pretty hard.
– Big O matched Stanford’s potential all conference big, 6’9” junior Oscar da Silva. Da Silva scored one less point and they both had 9 boards and played the same minutes. They fouled out late within a minute of each other.
– Stanford freshman Terry had been playing at an elite level, but was hounded by the Trojans guards all game, especially by Jonah. Terry was only 5-13 from the field. He finished with 16 points and 6 assists but he also had 4 TOs.
– Stanford had been taking very good care of the ball all season, but SC forced 17 TOs, including the two crucial steals in the closing seconds of regulation. SC has struggled with TOs in some of its games, and had 8 in the first half. But the Trojans were much better after the break, committing only 6 turnovers in the second half and OT combined.
– Andy used a four guard lineup at times in the second half and overtime, and it provided more quickness on defense and resulted in better shots. Stanford entered the game in the top ten nationally in many defensive categories, and giving up only 58 points per game in Pac 12 play. The Trojans scored 57 in the second half and overtime.
– The Trojans played very good defense in the second half without fouling. In an unusual twist, SC won the game from the free throw line. The bigger Trojans forced Stanford into 26 fouls, and SC made 27-36 from the line, for a good 75% for the game, and 20-24 in the second half and overtime. SC committed only 16 fouls, though both Big O and Ethan fouled out late. Stanford was only 8-14 from the line.
– Whatever Andy said or yelled at halftime should be saved in the archives. The team energy and intensity was much better after the break. They forced a few shot clock violations and a few very tough late shots to beat the clock helping the Trojans make their late run.
– Nick was 0-7 from the field, but made all four of his foul shots and grabbed 7 boards. Isaiah made his only shot in his 15 minutes, though it was a big follow shot during the Trojan run. He was 4-5 from the line and had 5 rebounds, and also played well on defense.
– SC outscored the Cardinal by 11 in fast break points and by 9 in second chance points.
– The SC defense held reliable Stanford junior guard Daejon Davis to 1-8 from the field in his 40 minutes. He beat SC with a half court buzzer beater two years ago, and this may have been the payback.
More Post Game Quotes From Andy
– Andy said that they would not have won without the fan support, and that the team will gain a lot of confidence from this win.
– Jonah and Elijah both played terrifically down the stretch, and both made very big plays late in the game. Ethan also played very well. Andy shortened the bench. Kyle Sturdivant and Quinton Adlesh played sparingly and Max Agbonkpolo did not play. Andy emphasized that Max is going to be a terrific player, but he decided to go with the veterans. Andy also stressed that Isaiah also played very well in the second half.
– The Trojans missed several layups in the first half and Stanford made “everything.” He expected the team to play better after the break.
Post Game Quotes From Elijah
– As soon as he saw Jonah force the last turnover, he ran to an open spot for a three point shot.
– He has been playing off the bench the last few games, and has not been playing as many minutes, but he has kept his confidence. He is a “team player,” and is fine in this new role.
– He tried to be aggressive and to get to the line. He made all four of his free throws in overtime.
– “Being number one in the conference is big.” They will celebrate this win tonight, and begin to focus on the next game tomorrow.
Pregame Comments From Jason Hart
– The Trojans played their best game of the season against Cal. They had 21 assists on 26 made baskets.
– The staff believes that inserting Daniel into the lineup with his three point shooting ability has opened the court up more for the bigs.
– They have worked a lot on reducing their TOs. The team has watched a lot of film on each turnover, and the coaches have gone over each one.
– Max has a lot of upside. He is playing behind Jonah and Daniel now and it is hard for him to get minutes, but they expect him to be a very good player.
As the clock ran out in overtime, the first thing that came to mind was the Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Both times I wasn’t sure how the Trojans had won. It seemed for most of this game that it wasn’t possible. Yet SC outscored Stanford 57-33 after the half. The crowd was loud and going crazy during much of the second half and throughout OT.
There is no doubt that before the season Andy and his staff would have been thrilled to be 15-3 and 4-1 in conference play at this point. The Stanford game was the first in a long stretch against good to very good conference teams, with Oregon next in Eugene on Thursday. The Trojans don’t play the Cardinal again. This will be a tough loss for Stanford to put behind them and a win which may propel the Trojans as they head to Oregon.