Mark it down: Wednesday night may be the worst performance you see from No. 1 Arizona all season long.
The Wildcats were, quite simply, not good. Stanford’s size was bothering Arizona’s big front line in the paint, Aaron Gordon was forcing things on the offensive end of the floor and Stanford was doing just enough on the offensive end of the floor to open up a lead that grew to 49-42 with about 13 minutes left.
And that’s when the Wildcats decided to show why they’re one of the few teams this season that has the look of a national title contender.
On the road, playing in a raucous environment in what is the single biggest game of the year for Stanford, Arizona turned the screws down the stretch and absolutely shut down anything the Cardinal wanted to do offensively. After a Josh Huestis jumper game Stanford a 53-49 lead with 9:58 on the clock, Stanford wouldn’t score again until Dwight Powell tied the game at 55 with 1:28 left. They would never lead again, eventually losing 60-57.
That’s not impressive enough? How about this stat: After a pair of free throws put Stanford up 51-44 with 12:34 left, the Cardinal would score on three more possessions the rest of the game.
Arizona’s defense was simply too much when you throw in the two huge Nick Johnson jumpers late. And that was it. Perfect season intact with a trip to Cal on the horizon for the weekend.
As far as Stanford is concerned, this is a loss that they are going to regret come Selection Sunday. The Cardinal are tracking to, once again, end up entrenched firmly on the bubble, and there are few things that can make a resume pop like a win over the No. 1 team in the country. It’s a worse scenario for Johnny Dawkins, who has been somewhat of a disappointment in Palo Alto. There are quite a few people out there who think that he needs to make the tournament this season to save his job. If this group ends up back in the NIT, Dawkins will be haunted by a four minute stretch where Stanford had empty possession after empty possession while holding the Wildcats scoreless.
Stanford played about as well as you can play against the Wildcats. They were in a perfect position to snag a season-changing upset, and they blew it.
Much of the credit should belong to that Arizona defense of those two huge Nick Johnson buckets, but that won’t make this loss feel any better for Cardinal fans.