TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Stanford’s rough week in the desert ended with the Cardinal watching No. 3 Arizona celebrate clinching the Pac-12 regular-season championship.
The Cardinal, beaten at Arizona State on Wednesday night, fell behind early against the Wildcats and never caught up in a 79-66 loss Sunday night.
“It’s tough,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They have experienced players out there with (T.J.) McConnell and (Nick) Johnson, who have been through a lot and know how to play with a lead. They’re poised, they don’t’ rush, they get good shots, and they’ve been an outstanding defensive team all year.”
Aaron Gordon, in almost certainly his final game of a one-and-done freshman season for Arizona, had 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
McConnell added 14 points, Gabe York 12, Johnson 11 and Kaleb Tarczewski 10 for the Wildcats (27-2, 14-2).
“It feels good,” Gordon said, “but it’s not the final stop on our destination.”
The Wildcats (27-2, 14-2), who won by just three at Stanford a month ago, completed an unbeaten home season in what also could have been the final McKale Center game for two other players: Johnson and freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
While Arizona entertains thoughts of a national title, Stanford finds itself in a logjam in the middle of the Pac-12 standings as it fights for an NCAA tournament bid.
“We just have to take it one game at a time,” said Dawkins, whose team finishes the regular season with home games against Colorado and Utah. “Hopefully we’re doing that and putting ourselves in a position to finish as high as we possibly can.”
Josh Huestis matched his career high with 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Stanford (18-10, 9-7).
Anthony Brown added 14 points and Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell had 12 apiece for the Cardinal, who trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half and 25 in the second.
“They had a great environment and they played very well,” Dawkins said. “They got off to a fast start and were able to maintain that throughout the game.”
After struggling following the season-ending injury to Brandon Ashley, Arizona has won in impressive fashion in one-sided games against Colorado, California and Stanford.
“We’re clicking on all cylinders right now,” Johnson said. “We want to go down in Arizona history as one of the best teams ever.”
The difference has been when the Wildcats have the ball.
“We’ve been a very consistent, dominant defensive team,” coach Sean Miller said. “Our offense is catching up.”
The Wildcats scored the first four points of the game and never trailed.
After consecutive dunks by Gordon, Hollis-Jefferson made one of two free throws to make it 13-4. Powell’s inside basket sliced the lead to 14-11, but Stanford never got that close again.
Elliott Pitts’ 3-pointer started a 9-2 spurt that put Arizona ahead 23-13 when Johnson scored on a drive. Randle scored on a runner to cut it to 23-17, but Johnson sank a 3-pointer, then blocked Randle’s shot at the other end. That led to Gordon’s fast-break basket on a pass from Hollis-Jefferson, and it was 28-17.
McConnell’s 14-footer in the lane followed by a pair of free throws from Matt Korcheck gave Arizona its biggest lead of the half, 41-23, with 1:27 to go.
Randle scored the final five points of the half on a 16-footer and a 3-pointer from the corner, cutting it to 41-28 at the break.
Brown’s basket reduced the margin to 43-32 with 18:06 left but he missed the free throw for what would have been a three-point play.
Tarczewski’s three-point play, on Stefan Nastic’s fourth foul, put Arizona up 48-32 with 17:14 left. Nastic fouled out with 8:47 to go.
York’s three 3s in a 2-minute span helped Arizona take its biggest lead, 68-43, on Hollis-Jefferson’s basket 10:08 from the finish.
The Cardinal made it respectable with a 19-5 run that cut it to 73-62 on Huestis’ stuff with 2:45 left.
Jordin Mayes, Arizona’s only senior, started in what was his 127th game with the Wildcats.
Verne Harris went out with an apparent hamstring injury with 16:24 to play, leaving the game with two officials.