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March 09, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005
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Stanford's NCAA hopes remain alive Stanford's NCAA hopes remain alive (March 09, 2005)

by Rick Eymer

Jason Haas came up big in Stanford's most important game of the season, scoring a career-high 18 points to help lead the Cardinal to a 77-67 victory over visiting Washington on Saturday in the Pac-10 men's basketball season finale.

As a result, Stanford (11-7, 17-11) finished in a third-place tie in the conference standings and will meet - gasp! - Washington State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament on Thursday night at 8:45 p.m. in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Haas and his teammates have a little payback in mind when they meet the Cougars for the third time this season. Washington State nearly turned out the lights on Stanford's NCAA hopes last Thursday with a 59-48 victory at Maples.

The Cougars ended a 17-game losing streak to Stanford with the regular season sweep.

Haas, who was 2-of-7 from the field but 13-of-14 from the foul line, also has the Cougars to partially thank for his sudden offensive explosion against the Huskies.

A handful of Washington State's players made it a point to seek out Haas after Thursday's loss and remind him he's better than he thinks he is.

"A lot of people tell me I need to be more aggressive," Haas said after his first collegiate double-digit effort. "I still get tight in games. This time I was relaxed."

Stanford regained its edge for a possible NCAA bid by beating its second top 10 team of the season and improving its RPI rating.

"If we finish third in the Pac-10 after all the stuff that's happened and don't get into the tournament, then something is wrong," Stanford coach Trent Johnson said. "We've been through so many changes: losing a player to the NBA, losing two key perimeter players to injury and academics, having a nut case as a new head coach. In corporate America you don't go through changes like that."

Matt Haryasz had a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double, ending any hopes the Huskies had of sharing the Pac-10 title.

Washington ended Stanford's bid for an undefeated season last year.

"That hurt," said Haryasz, who did his part in easing the pain.

Thursday's loss also hurt, and served as motivation.

"That was a disappointing, sad game," Stanford's Chris Hernandez said. "This win feels great, especially rebounding from a poor game."

Hernandez added 12 points and five assists, and committed just two turnovers. He had five turnovers and four assists in the loss to the Cougars.

"We were embarrassed and we didn't want any part of that feeling again," Johnson said. "We had to come out strong against Washington and not let up for an instant."

Nick Robinson added 12 points and nine rebounds.

The night belonged to Haas though.

"They didn't give him a lot of respect," Hernandez said. "He met the challenge and exceeded it. He became the aggressor instead of them on him."

Haas had scored just 76 points all season, and 145 for his career, before Saturday's effort. In six previous games against the Huskies, Haas scored a total of eight points - his best against any Pac-10 team.

Stanford has beaten Washington 12 straight in Maples Pavilion. The latest victory triggered a jubilant party on the court attended hundreds of students dressed in the familiar sixth-man club T-shirts.

"I was really inspired," Haryasz said. "I was pretty bummed about the Washington State game."

Haryasz extended his streak of 10 or more points and nine or more rebounds to 12 of the past 13 games.

The Cardinal also held Washington without a field goal for over eight minutes, spanning both halves. The Huskies missed 19 straight shots.

Hernandez changed into his practice gear and spent more than an hour working on his shot in a near-empty gym following Stanford's loss to Washington State.

"I didn't step up and make plays," he said. "That's what you have to do if you want to win."

The Cougars, who clinched one of the eight spots in the Pac-10 conference tournament with the win, handed Stanford just its second home loss and it couldn't have come at a worse time.

Stanford shot a season worst .293 (17-of-58) and matched its worst 3-point effort at .143 (3-of-21). Hernandez was 3-of-16 (2-of-10 from 3-point land); Robinson 2-of-12 (0-6) and Haryasz 5-of-14 (1-2).

So Hernandez, who scored 10 points and had a team-high four assists, went out and worked on his shooting.

Haryasz had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and has scored in double figures in 13 straight.

The Cougars held Stanford 25 points below its season average, and that's routine for them. Washington State held Oregon State 28 points under, Arizona 26 points under, Washington 18 points under and UCLA 17 points under its average.

Rob Little, who had 11 rebounds, gave Stanford a 12-10 with 5:52 remaining in the first half when he completed a three-point play. That was the last time Stanford would score for eight minutes as the Cougars scored 15 straight points.


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