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Stanford holds off Utah to boost Pac-12 position


Stanford holds off Utah to boost Pac-12 position

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 8, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Johnny Dawkins will not get caught up in the bracketology business or the chances his Stanford team has of reaching the NCAA tournament.

Dawkins does realize the importance of Saturday's wild 61-60 win against Utah to wrap up the Pac-12 regular season.

"I'm the only person in the world I promise I don't pay attention to it," Dawkins said. "I know it's an important game. That's out of our hands. I've never ever watched those."

He has plenty of other stuff going on to get the Cardinal prepared for the Pac-12 tournament next week — especially after they nearly let this one slip away by missing seven straight free throws down the stretch.

Dwight Powell made a go-ahead free throw with 36.1 seconds remaining after that series of misses from the line late, and the Cardinal held on by playing stellar defense.

Chasson Randle delivered key shots in crunch time on the way to 22 points and forced Brandon Taylor into a turnover with 1.8 seconds left as Utah couldn't get a shot off in the waning seconds with a chance to win.

Randle wanted to keep Taylor from getting a good look given his knack for making contested 3-pointers in crunch time.

"Chasson had his guard up and was ready to play," said Dawkins, who spoke to his players about winning even when one aspect might be suffering. "Our guys didn't hang their heads, they hung their heads on guarding. ... You can overcome some of your struggles. We were able to do that."


Stefan Nastic added 14 points for the Cardinal (19-11, 10-8 Pac-12), who along with Utah began the day in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. The seeding for next week's conference tournament in Las Vegas still had to be worked out based on Saturday's results, but with the win Stanford will be seeded no worse than sixth and could be as high as fourth.

Randle hopes this victory will boost the Cardinal's chances of an NCAA bid.

"But we still have business to take care of in the Pac-12 tournament next week," Randle said. "We're looking forward to that."

The Cardinal were outshot 55 to 48 percent but held a 28-23 rebounding edge and did enough right to snap a three-game losing streak after falling at home Wednesday night 59-56 to Colorado.

Taylor scored 14 points and Delon Wright 12 for Utah (20-10, 9-9), denied a Bay Area sweep after a 63-59 win at California on Wednesday night that gave coach Larry Krystkowiak his first 20-win season in three years at the school. The Utes had their three-game winning streak snapped in the rare 11:30 a.m. local time tipoff.

Dallin Bachynski hit the tying free throws with 55.4 seconds left but Utah couldn't make a play when it mattered most.

"I don't consider them really giving us an opportunity," Krystkowiak said of Stanford's missed free throws. "From our perspective, it was a really gutsy performance. They scratch and claw to stay in it, and there's no shortage on our team in terms of the guts. Now we've got to start getting more physical and execute when it comes down the stretch like that."

After Bachynski's earlier go-ahead dunk for Utah, Josh Huestis hit a 3-pointer with 2:16 left but missed a pair of free throws at 1:54.

Nastic scored four points in a 6-0 spurt that put Stanford ahead 54-43 with 7:51 remaining, then Utah answered right back with an 8-0 run featuring back-to-back 3-pointers by Wright and Brandon Taylor and a layin from Jeremy Olsen.

The Utes hit big shots late to stay in it. And what a change in the programs' lone meeting of the season from a year earlier, when Stanford swept the two conference meetings by a combined 49-point margin of victory.

Taylor, who on Wednesday at Cal converted the go-ahead free throws with 1:46 remaining and hit a 3-pointer with 51.2 seconds left, hit a 3 with 6:46 to go Saturday and another basket at the 3:59 mark that got the Utes within 57-56.

Randle's 3-pointer with 11:36 to play put Stanford up 46-38 before Dakarai Tucker quickly answered with a 3 on the other end. Then Huestis delivered a basket moments later as Stanford kept attacking.

Randle scored 11 of his points in the first half to help Stanford to a 33-25 lead at the break despite 55.8-percent shooting by Utah.

Stanford forced six turnovers in the opening 5:28 and built an 18-8 lead. The Cardinal made 11 of their first 19 shots to build a 25-15 advantage on Marcus Allen's layin with 8:13 left in the first half.

Powell, who returned for his final Stanford season rather than enter the NBA draft last year, was accompanied by Toronto friends Ahmed and Omar Nazmi along with Theresa Morgan for senior day at Maples Pavilion. Powell's mother, Jacqueline Weir, died in September 2012 after a short fight with cancer.

San Francisco 49ers coach and former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh attended the game with 5-year-old daughter, Addison. He sat in the box of athletic director Bernard Muir.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


Janie McCauley


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