PALO ALTO, Calif. — At this point, Stanford might as well hand over the keys to Maples Pavilion to the Arizona Wildcats.
Not only do the Wildcats always win at Stanford’s campus arena, but they also have fans on hand that can dominate the homecourt fans while they’re doing so.
Arizona won its 18th straight game over the Cardinal on Wednesday, 75-70, and 17th straight under coach Sean Miller, in front of a sparsely populated crowd that included at least a thousand of UA’s Bay Area alumni and fans.
Both Miller’s voice and repeated “U of A” chants could be heard throughout the arena, even as Stanford held leads of up to six points into the second half and cut the Wildcats’ lead to just 69-68 with less than two minutes left.
“I heard the U of A chants,” said forward Ira Lee, who scored four points amid a career-high 12 and pulled down a key rebound in the final minute to clinch the game. “Felt good.”
Stanford held leads of up to six points into the second half and cut the Wildcats’ lead to just 69-68 with less than two minutes left, with UA center Chase Jeter already having fouled out.
But Lee drove inside for a layup that gave UA a 71-68 lead and then collected a defensive rebound when Daejon Davis missed a runner. Lee was then fouled and hit both ensuing free throws.
“Really happy for Ira,” Miller said. “He’s one of our hardest workers and when you work that hard, you hope moments like that happen.”
Justin Coleman took a hard foul with 17.1 seconds left and exited while pointing to the same shoulder he dislocated in practice last week. He returned to the game for Arizona's final possession.
Earlier, Stanford’s Josh Sharma collected an offensive rebound with over one minute left, the Cardinal moved the ball all the way around the perimeter and back to Sharma for a dunk that cut UA’s lead to 69-68.
Brandon Randolph led UA with 15 points while KZ Okpala had 29 to lead the Cardinal.
The win moved Arizona to 12-4 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have an extra day to prepare in the Bay area before facing California next on Saturday.
Stanford dropped to 7-8 and 0-3.
The Wildcats overcame Stanford's 18 free-throw attempts in the first half while their defense still allowed the Cardinal to shoot 58.3 percent in the second half. Still, Jeter fouled out with 2:21 left.
The Cardinal also lost a key player down the stretch when freshman guard Cormac Ryan needed assistance to reach the locker room after suffering an apparent lower-body injury with 7:46 left.
When Jeter fouled out, the Wildcats led just 65-64 though a layup from Brandon Williams made it 67-64, but Lee confidently took the key inside role in Jeter’s place.
“Definitely. My role has changed a lot since my freshman year,” Lee said.
Lee and the Wildcats knew foul outs would be a possibility early on. The Cardinal took 18 first-half free throws while four UA players picked up two or more fouls. In the second half, Stanford went to the line only eight more times but shot 58.3 percent from the field.
“We did a lot of things defensively that I would hope we would get better at,” Miller said.
Lee said Stanford’s second-half shooting wasn’t because Arizona defended more carefully as much as it was about the skills of Cardinal standouts Okpala and Davis.
“We stayed disciplined,” Lee said. “We really didn’t change anything. You’ve got to hand it to KZ and Daejon. They’re great players.”
Okpala had 29 points while Davis scored 15 to lead Stanford.
Arizona led Stanford 61-54 with seven minutes left on a layup from Brandon Williams but the Cardinal scored three straight baskets, two from Okpala and another from Bryce Willis to pull within one with 3:28 left to go.
The Wildcats had led Stanford 40-38 at halftime but the Cardinal built a 50-46 lead early in the second half while UA missed 5 of 7 shots to start the half. The Wildcats tied it back up at 52 when Ryan Luther converted a three-point play with 10:57 left and turned it into a 12-2 run that gave them a 59-54 lead entering the final eight minutes, with Stanford having gone scoreless for over three minutes at one point during the run.
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In the first half, Arizona made 6 of 8 3-pointers to overcome Stanford’s 18 first-half free throw attempts and take a 40-38 halftime lead.
The Cardinal made only 11 of its 18 free throws but still scored nine more points than UA did at the line, while getting four Wildcats to begin flirting with foul trouble. Luther and Lee each had three fouls, while Dylan Smith and Jeter each had two.
Lee led UA in first-half scoring with eight points while Luther and Justin Coleman each had seven.
The Cardinal outrebounded UA 18-15 but had 11 turnovers.
Stanford tied the game at 23 on a free throw from Wills with 7:56 left in the half and the Cardinal went ahead 25-23 on two free throws from Davis.
After Luther and Randolph hit 3s to give UA a 29-25 lead, the Cardinal tied it back up at 29 on two layups, one coming after Luther was called for a charge, his third foul of the game at that point. The game remained within two possessions the rest of the way.
At the start of the game, Arizona took a 10-2 lead while Stanford missed its first four shots, but the Cardinal quickly pulled back into it.
The Cardinal drew fouls from Lee on two successive scores, with Oscar da Silva converting the and-one free throw on his dunk while Okpala missed his free throw after a fast break layup on an assist from Davis.
While Jeter scored inside to give UA a 12-7 lead, Davis and Okpala each scored to cut UA’s lead to 12-11 before Stanford went ahead later in the half.