Freshman Michael Humphrey went down hard just over four minutes into Thursday's Pac-12 men's basketball game at Arizona State. Stanford's hopes for a fifth seed for the upcoming conference tourney and a berth in the NCAA tournament also fell hard.
The Cardinal rallied from a halftime deficit but not enough to ward off the host Sun Devils' 67-62 victory.
Stanford (9-8 Pac-12, 18-11 overall) will need something resembling a minor miracle to hold on to fifth place. The Cardinal either needs to beat No. 5 Arizona on its home court Saturday, or have California knock off Arizona State the same day to gain the fifth seed.
The Wildcats own the nation's longest home winning streak and beat California by more than 30 points on Thursday.
Stanford is already guaranteed no less than a tie for fifth, despite losing six of its last nine games. The Sun Devils, though, hold the tie-breaker over Stanford should the teams finished tied.
"Right now all I can think about is getting our rotation down," Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. "Rosco Allen is coming back and we're reinserting Reid Travis. Now we may have Michael out. We were getting our chemistry and communication back to where we had it."
The three freshmen forwards have all made impacts for the Cardinal this season. Travis missed the first nine games of the conference season and Allen missed four games late in the Pac-12 season.
Just when it appeared all three would play together, Humphrey sprained his left ankle. He was using crutches afterward.
"That came at an inopportune moment," Dawkins said. "He's been playing so well lately and making an impact on both ends of the court."
It was also Humphrey's first appearance in front of a hometown crowd.
"We just hope everything will be OK," said Hawkins. "We'll take a look at him and hope it's not a serious injury."
The Sun Devils scored 16 of the last 18 points of the first half to take a 37-23 edge into intermission.
Chasson Randle, who scored 16 points, hit a 3-pointer to spark run that cut Arizona State's lead to six.
Stanford came all the way back to tie the game with 10:35 remaining to play on an Anthony Brown 3-pointer.
The Cardinal could never grab the lead though. Randle hit another 3 to bring Stanford within 60-57 with 1:17 to play but two crucial turnovers in the final 30 seconds forced the Cardinal to foul and the Sun Devils held on.
The loss also hurt Stanford's bid for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal will likely have to reach the championship game of the conference tourney to keep itself on the good side of the bubble.
That is, unless Stanford can somehow find a way to beat the Wildcats, likely without Humphrey.