Magical year for Jacks ends in California
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 15:03
PALO ALTO, Calif.—Desmond Haymon’s jumper just before the buzzer did not go and the Stanford Cardinal put an end to one of the most historic seasons in SFA history by escaping the Lumberjacks, 58-57, on Tuesday night in the opening round of the NIT at Maples Pavilion.
SFA (27-5), who was the No. 5 seed in the region, closes out its season with the most wins by a Lumberjack squad since the 1971-72 season, falling in its final two games of the year by just a combined three points. Meanwhile, the No. 4 Cardinal (19-14), the defending NIT champion, will advance in the NIT and move on to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take on the region’s No. 1 seed, Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated Northeastern earlier in the evening in their first round game.
“I’m very proud of these guys. They gave me a heck of a ride,” head coach Danny Kaspar said following the game. “It’s a very high-character, hard-working group. They’re very coachable. I haven’t had a team with so many quality young men on it. There are no bad apples in this group.”
The game, which was aired on ESPN2, was SFA’s second-ever appearance in the NIT and was a program-best 11th televised game this year and featured seven lead changes. The Jacks held a 32-31 lead at the half, and closed the game scoring seven of the game’s final 10 points, but despite making one more field goal than the Cardinal and canning 10 of 12 foul shots, Stanford’s seven triples was just too much.
Taylor Smith was nearly unstoppable in the game’s opening minutes and finished with a game-high 18 points on seven of nine shooting from the floor to go with seven boards and a block.
“Smith is a load,” Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Not only is he a good defender, but he’s a really good shot-blocker and rebounder. Anything around the basket, it’s deceiving: you think you can get it off because he’s 6’6”, but his arms are so long and he’s so athletic that he changes your shot and alters things around the paint.”
Antonio Bostic added 15 points, including six points in the second half before leaving late in the game with a shoulder injury, and Hal Bateman had 12 points and seven dimes, hitting all six of his foul shots.
In all, SFA shot 43.1 percent from the field and held the Cardinal to less than 41 percent, but was outdone on the boards by the bigger Cardinal front line, 33-29, marking just the fifth time all season SFA had been outdone on the boards., and the first time it was defeated when being out-rebounded.
Desmond Haymon also had 10 points and five boards, including hitting a crucial three-point bucket with 2:18 to play that drew SFA back to within a point. But neither squad scored in the final minutes, with both teams getting the stops they needed.
“We just wanted to get the best shot available,” Haymon said. “Unfortunately, the shot we took just didn’t go down. It was a great look. We just lost it at the end.”
SFA had a chance in the final seconds when Thomas Walkup stole a pass from Chasson Randle, advancing the ball in transition to Haymon who got an open look from just outside the foul line that did not fall as time expired.
Dwight Powell was the major contributor for the Cardinal, using his 6-10 frame to go for 12 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. He was joined by Aaron Bright as the only other Cardinal player in double figures with 11, with three of Bright’s four field goals coming from beyond the arc.
The Jacks led by as much as six points in the first half, getting a dozen points from Smith in the first nine minutes of the game and leading 20-14 eleven minutes into the game after Trey Pinkney found Thomas Walkup for an open jumper from the left short corner.
“We started off well,” Haymon said. “The game is about runs, we knew it was going to be back and forth, blow to blow, for both teams. We knew we just couldn’t relax. This team played strong and we went out with a bang.”
But the Cardinal responded with a 12-0 run on buckets from four separate players, including threes from Bright and Robbie Lemons. Bostic and Smith answered that run with back-to-back buckets and SFA finished the half on an 8-3 run in the final 1:21, getting a straightaway three from Bostic with just seven seconds to go to take a 32-31 lead into the break.
The teams traded baskets for the majority of the second half before the Cardinal was able to finally stretch out its lead to its peak at 51-44 after five straight points from Powell that ended in an alley-oop find from Gabriel Harris.
But Bateman scored six of SFA’s next eight points, including hitting four foul shots, quickly trimming the Stanford lead to just three with less than seven minutes to play. Haymon and Harris then traded baskets with Harris’ jumper being the last field goal the Cardinal would make in the game’s final 5:44.
Four more points from Bateman and a jumper from Haymon cut the lead to four with 3:03 to go and after the Jacks withstood a Cardinal offensive flurry on one end, got a three from the top of the key from Haymon on its end to cut the game to 58-57 with 2:18 to go. Unfortunately, despite getting two stops defensively, the Jacks were not able to get the final bucket they needed and the Cardinal held on to advance in the tournament.
It was the first meeting between the teams and SFA’s fourth postseason appearance as a Division I school. A win would have been SFA’s first postseason win away from its home court.