Stanford was looking for a statement game late in the Pac-12 Conference season and found it Saturday night, beating No. 23 UCLA, 83-74, at Maples Pavilion in what could turn out to be an important signature win when it comes time to evaluate possible NCAA tournament teams.
The Cardinal (9-5, 18-8) proved itself worthy with its third victory over a nationally ranked opponent this season, and the first at home.
Stanford gets two more big opportunities next week when it travels to Tempe for a game against Arizona State on Wednesday night and then visits fourth-ranked Arizona for a 5 p.m. conference test Sunday.
The Cardinal assumed sole possession of third place in the Pac-12, at least for the day, a game behind the Bruins and three games back of Arizona. California hosts USC and Arizona State plays at Utah on Sunday. Cal and the Sun Devils each sit at 8-5.
Chasson Randle made a career-high seven 3-pointers en route to a game high 26 points and Josh Huestis, who set a career-high in rebounds during Stanford's win over USC on Thursday night, followed that by matching his career-high with 22 points, along with five blocks.
"We've watched a lot of film on the last UCLA game, and the one thing that really sticks out in my head is the team that played down in L.A. was a totally different team than we are now," Huestis said. "We've taken a lot of steps forward. We've grown quite a bit. As you can see, we're a much more aggressive team offensively and defensively, we're tougher, we're a more together team. And I really think that as long as we keep on that path, we've got unlimited growth and potential."
The way the Cardinal responded to a bit of adversity in the second half certainly showed a toughness that was lacking earlier. There was no panic this time and Stanford not only held off the Bruins but slammed (as in dunk shots) them around a little.
Just when it looked as though Dwight Powell was a no-show, boom, he scores nine points in the first four minutes of the second half and gave ESPN one of its top highlights of the night completing a sophisticated alley opp slam dunk that put Stanford up by 13.
Randle started the jaw-dropping play with a steal. He lobbed a pass to Anthony Brown, who threw a lob back to Powell for a one-handed jam, raising the decibel level of the over 7,000 fans inside Maples to record heights.
"It felt great. We knew the magnitude of this game," Randle said. "It was one that we felt like we had to win, and we did that tonight. Guys were really hyped up before the game, and now we just move on to the next and keep pushing."
Stanford shot a blistering 62.2 percent from the field, its best performance since making 65.2 percent in a blowout of Harvard (and Palo Alto grad Jeremy Lin) on Nov. 9, 2007.
Randle's long range accuracy (he did miss three times) made him the second Cardinal to sink seven 3-pointers since Jeremy Green needed 15 tries to make seven against Oregon State on March 9, 2011.
In addition to Huestis adding to his school record 174 blocked shots, Randle recorded his 100th career steal and Powell took over seventh on Stanford's all-time rebounding list with 801.
"UCLA came in as hot as any team in the country, and I thought our guys came prepared and won a real hard-fought game," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "I thought they made really good runs several times. Every time they made a run, our guys responded. It says a lot about our kids and their belief in what we were doing."
Brown added 18 points and another defensive gem in his 37 minutes of work.