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Stanford falls short against USC, 77-66

Late cold stretch dooms Cardinal

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Daejon Davis and Cormac Ryan back in the lineup, Stanford (7-7, 0-2) was at full strength for the first time since playing at Kansas. USC (9-6, 2-0), on the other hand, dressed just 7 healthy scholarship players. Still, the Trojans were somehow the ones with enough gas in the tank late to pull away in the Galen Center.

As is becoming a trend, Stanford got off to a poor start thanks to an anemic offensive showing in the first half. The Cardinal had just 21 by the break, and had more turnovers than field goals. The Trojans used the sloppy Stanford start and their superior interior players to jump to a 13-0 lead.

Stanford had no answer for Nick Rakocevic. The junior post player was just three days removed from a career high 27 points, and had a similarly strong performance tonight. He had 14 and 7 in the first half, and ultimately finished with 23 and 10 on 11-19 from the field. The Trojans were repeatedly able to get him switched onto smaller defenders, and his strong fundamentals sealed the deal at the rim.

In spite of the slow Stanford start, they trailed by just 10 at the break. They came out of the locker room inspired on the offensive side, and used an early 13-2 run to cut the lead to just 1 point. Cormac Ryan led the charge for the Cardinal, with 6 second half bombs. Stanford was feeding him in any way they could, including off of screens on a dead run. Everything seemed to fall.

The Cardinal took their first lead at 46-43 off another triple, and it quickly turned into a back and forth affair. USC’s offense was also catching its stride thanks to the strong play of veteran point guard Derryck Thornton. Every time Stanford looked primed to seize momentum, USC made a timely bucket.

The game finally turned late when the Cardinal offense disappeared. After they took a 54-53 lead, they allowed USC to rip off a methodical 15-1 run. The Trojans got good looks, attacking the teeth of the Stanford defense. Meanwhile, Stanford went more than six and a half minutes without a made field goal. They attempted to mount a late rally, but it was too little, too late.

Ryan led the Cardinal with his career high 18 points, scored in spectacular fashion and all after the break. Daejon Davis had 14 points and 9 assists in his return from injury. KZ Okpala was also in double figures, with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.

Josh Sharma came off the bench yet again. Other than a brief spurt in the first half, he was largely a non-factor. His front court mate, Oscar da Silva, also had a difficult time leaving his mark on the game, thanks to persistent foul trouble.

USC was paced by the 23 of Rakocevic and the 22 from versatile big man Bennie Boatwright. Thornton had 11 points and 9 assists, and Jonah Mathews fought through injury to net 11.

The Cardinal drop to 0-2 in conference play, as they return to Maples for a critical homestand against the Arizona schools. USC improves to 2-0 after Thursday’s win over Cal.