Randle handles the pressure, leads Stanford to NIT title


NEW YORK -- With the dust settling on the longest season in Stanford basketball history, coach Johnny Dawkins better be ready to hit the recruiting trail.

With his offensive juggernaut having played the last game of his college career, Dawkins will be hard-pressed to replenish the firepower that is graduating from his program.

Chasson Randle, the Cardinal's all-time leading scorer, was never better throughout his illustrious career than he was Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Playing in his last game in a Stanford uniform, the senior guard collected 25 points as he rallied the Cardinal from a three-point deficit with less than a minute remaining in overtime.

Randle benefited from a questionable call to sink a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left, as Stanford outlasted Miami, 66-64, in the championship of the Postseason National Invitation Tournament.

With the win, Stanford (24-13) captured its second NIT crown in the past four years and third in the past 25 years.

"How many teams are going to win championships this year?" said Dawkins. "Not very many. To cut down the nets and have a championship moment, it goes with you for the rest of your life."

With his team trailing 64-63 in the waning seconds, Randle pump-faked from the left wing to get his defender in the air, leaned in, and drew a foul.

He hit both foul shots, and after the Hurricanes (25-13) threw the ball away, Anthony Brown knocked down one of two from the stripe.

"There were no nerves," said Randle, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NIT. "I had been in that position earlier in the year at UCLA, and I made the first one, missed the second one. So I'd be in practice thinking about that, how I'd be back in this moment. I just wanted to feel as calm as possible, and when I went up there, I was."

When asked about the whistle that put him at the line, Randle responded tersely: "The ref called it, so I can't do anything about that."

Dawkins sounded like a politician who had the answer rehearsed before the question was asked.

"The last one, of course, we say the guy leaned in or whatever on the jump shot," he said. "I thought he got fouled. It's the plane-of-verticality rule. If you're not jumping directly straight up, then any leaning in or hands down, it's an automatic foul. I'm just happy the ref had the nerve to make the call."

With the score tied twice in the last 90 seconds of regulation, Randle connected on two driving layups, but Miami's Sheldon McClellan answered with four free throws on the other end to force the extra session.

"Chasson has been doing a lot of scoring for us down the stretch," said Dawkins, "and we wanted to continue to ride him. We were going to put the ball in his hands, and he was going to decide it for us. What you saw was a will to win."

After almost blowing a 21-point lead in the semifinals to Old Dominion, it looked as if Stanford was going to squander a 13-point lead against Miami.

The Cardinal opened up a 32-21 lead at halftime, courtesy of a 10-0 run fueled by a pair of Randle treys late in the first half.

The cushion didn't last long.

The Hurrican, playing without two injured starters, slowly chipped away after the break. Whereas the Cardinal did a good job of keeping Miami's dribble-drives and picks-and-rolls out of the paint in the first half, the gritty Hurricanes began getting to the rim.

Randle's heroics, made all the difference

"Refuse to lose," he said. "My teammates and my coaches, they told us that we still had control of the game going into overtime. We just wanted to go out there and be aggressive. We knew we only had five minutes left in our season."

A season that officially began on Oct. 3 and ended 182 days later.

Stanford's lopsided loss to Sweet 16-bound Utah in the Pac-12 quarterfinals three weeks ago sealed the Cardinal's fate with regard to the NCAA Tournament.

With a .500 conference record and four losses in its last five games heading into Selection Sunday, Stanford didn't expect to see its name in the big bracket.

After accepting an invitation to the NIT, the Cardinal's goal became no different than Sinatra's -- "to wake up in a city that never sleeps and find it number one, top of the list, king of the hill."

Mission accomplished.

"In the last four years, we've won two NIT championships and have gone to the Sweet 16," said Dawkins. "I don't think that's horrible. I think we've shown that we can be competitive in either tournament, because we've had success in both."

NOTES: Stefan Nastic scored 11 points before fouling out in regulation . . . Brown contributed nine points and a team-high 12 rebounds, while Marcus Allen had nine points and 10 boards … Freshman Reid Travis, a McDonald's All-American last year, was solid inside with seven points and seven rebounds . . . Randle's career tally of 2,375 points in now etched in stone . . . Miami entered the final having won its four NIT games by an average of four points . . . The game marked Bobby Knight's last as a college-basketball analyst for ESPN, as the network declined to renew his contract earlier in the day . . . Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin was in attendance to cheer on his alma mater and received heavy media attention . . . Championship fever hung thick in the air, as Stanford's assistant coaches -- particularly Tim O'Toole and Jeff LaMere -- were more animated on the sidelines than a Walt Disney film.

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Like this comment
Posted by Joe Baldwin
a resident of University South
on Apr 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Congratulations to the entire Stanford
men's basketball team. All the players,
especially the seniors, plus Coach Dawkins
and his splendid staff, gave us another
outstanding season.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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