DePaul has not beaten a power-conference team that went on to make the NCAA tournament during Oliver Purnell's five-year tenure, so it was tempting to give up on Stanford after its mind-numbing 15-point loss to the Blue Demons over Thanksgiving weekend.
In retrospect, perhaps that was a little too hasty.
Stanford showed it may yet live up to its preseason billing as an upper-echelon Pac-12 team Tuesday night when it became the first team besides top-ranked Kentucky to defeat Texas this season. Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown scored a combined 47 points to lead the visiting Cardinal to a 74-71 overtime victory over the ninth-ranked Longhorns.
Upsetting Texas improves Stanford's record to 7-3 and ensures it won't enter conference play without a marquee win. The Cardinal had been in a funk since the DePaul loss, requiring second-half comebacks to escape at home against LMU and Denver before falling 79-77 at BYU on Friday night.
Emerging from that stretch of mediocrity on Tuesday was timely because a road win at Texas will certainly pay dividend in March. The Longhorns entered 10-1 with wins over UConn, Cal and Iowa even though they have played most of the season without leading scorer and premier shot creator Isaiah Taylor.
Thanks to the scoring prowess of Randle and Brown and a defense designed to wall off the paint and force Texas to score from the perimeter, Stanford never trailed by more than seven the entire game and put itself in position to win late in regulation. Only a pair of blunders by Brown and Randle gave Texas a chance to force overtime.
Stanford led by two with 30 seconds remaining when Brown erred by running into the corner to catch and inbound pass and compounded the mistake by lowering his shoulder into Jonathan Holmes to try to escape the trap. Granted Holmes went down as though Brown's shoulder was made of extra-strength titanium, but the Stanford wing still put himself in a bad position venturing into the corner against full-court pressure.
Holmes made Stanford pay by burying a game-tying jump shot on Texas' ensuing possession and Randle then squandered a chance to win it for the Cardinal in regulation. Instead of either shooting a pull-up jumper or attacking off the dribble, Randle passed with a few seconds left, leaving freshman Robert Cartwright without enough time to create a scoring chance.
Randle and Brown atoned for their mistakes in overtime by scoring all but one of the Cardinal's 10 points. It was Randle who tied the game with a huge 3-pointer off a ball screen and extended Stanford's lead to three with a step-back jumper with 10 seconds remaining. It was Brown who gave the Cardinal the lead for good on a driving layup with 1:08 to play.
Texas has survived without Taylor for nearly the past six weeks, but Tuesday's loss showed why the Longhorns need him to recover from his broken wrist in order to contend in the Big 12 or make a deep NCAA tournament run.
With Taylor sidelined and Stanford gearing its defense to take away the Texas big men, Rick Barnes put the ball in the hands of backup point guard Javan Felix and asked him to create offense late in the game. Felix had some nice moments off the dribble, but he is far more erratic than Taylor in that situation.
Felix, a streak shooter, missed two key jumpers late in regulation and a pair of threes in the final minute of overtime that would have given Texas a tie or the lead. He finished with a team-high 19 points on 7 of 16 shooting but 2-for-8 from behind the arc.
With Taylor due back in time for Big 12 play, Texas should be a different team offensively and a threat to dethrone Kansas. That's good news for a Stanford team that now wants the Longhorns to do as well as possible the rest of the season.
The last power-conference team to lose to DePaul and still make the NCAA tournament was Marquette in Jan. 2010.
Stanford can't erase its loss to the Blue Demons but on Tuesday the Cardinal at least took a big step toward atoning for it.
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