With his sputtering team trailing Colorado State by five and in jeopardy of failing to earn a trip to New York for the Preseason NIT semifinals, Stanford's Gabriel Harris delivered the spark the Cardinal needed.
Harris grabbed the rebound of an errant Colorado State shot, looked up at the game clock as he took a dribble up court and then launched a three-quarters court prayer as the halftime buzzer sounded. Improbably the reserve guard hit all net, completing an 11-2 Stanford spurt to end the half and propelling the Cardinal to a 64-52 victory over the Rams on Tuesday night in Palo Alto.
"That was definitely a pick-me-up," Stanford forward Josh Owens told the Palo Alto Daily News. "We were building some momentum and to close with that gave us all kinds of energy."
Stanford's comeback from a first-half deficit that ballooned as large as 11 points secured the Cardinal a date with either Oklahoma State or Texas-San Antonio at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. The low-post scoring of Josh Owens and the vast all-around improvement of guard Aaron Bright give Stanford hope of taking advantage of its national stage next week, but several facets must improve for the Cardinal to win a game against the likes of Syracuse, Oklahoma State or Virginia Tech in New York.
They need the sprained ankle that has sidelined talented forward Dwight Powell to fully heal. They need true freshman point guard Chasson Randle to stop over-dribbling and do a better job taking care of the ball. And they need highly touted sophomore wing Anthony Brown to regain his shooting stroke and stop trying to do too much when he has the ball.
Stanford hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since Brook and Robin Lopez propelled the 2008 team to a second-place Pac-10 finish and a Sweet 16 appearance. The Cardinal are likely a year away from that level of success, but next week is an opportunity to prove the program is headed in the right direction.