Posted Online: March 08, 2014, 8:56 pm

Randle forces late turnover to keep Stanford's NCAA hopes alive

Comment on this story

Photo: Associated Press
Stanford guard Chasson Randle, right, goes to the basket as Utah guard Brandon Taylor, left, looks on during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Stanford, Calif. Stanford won the game 61-60.
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Johnny Dawkins will not get caught up in the bracketology business or the chances his Stanford team has of reaching the NCAA tournament.

Dawkins does realize the importance of Saturday's wild 61-60 win against Utah to wrap up the Pac-12 regular season.

"I'm the only person in the world I promise I don't pay attention to it," Dawkins said. "I know it's an important game. That's out of our hands. I've never ever watched those."

He has plenty of other stuff going on to get the Cardinal prepared for the Pac-12 tournament next week — especially after they nearly let this one slip away by missing seven straight free throws down the stretch.

Dwight Powell made a go-ahead free throw with 36.1 seconds remaining after that series of misses from the line late, and the Cardinal held on by playing stellar defense.

Rock island graduate Chasson Randle delivered key shots in crunch time on the way to 22 points and forced Brandon Taylor into a turnover with 1.8 seconds left as Utah couldn't get a shot off in the waning seconds with a chance to win.

Randle wanted to keep Taylor from getting a good look given his knack for making contested 3-pointers in crunch time.

"Chasson had his guard up and was ready to play," said Dawkins, who spoke to his players about winning even when one aspect might be suffering. "Our guys didn't hang their heads, they hung their heads on guarding. ... You can overcome some of your struggles. We were able to do that."

Added Randle,"I knew that Taylor wanted the ball back, so I just wanted to deny him the ball, and then they brought a little cluster over there into the corner. I just tried to get a hand on the ball and got lucky on defense."

Stefan Nastic added 14 points for the Cardinal (19-11, 10-8 Pac-12), who along with Utah began the day in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. The seeding for next week's conference tournament in Las Vegas still had to be worked out based on Saturday's results, but with the win Stanford will be seeded no worse than sixth and could be as high as fourth.

Randle hopes this victory will boost the Cardinal's chances of an NCAA bid.

"I thought our team showed a lot of character tonight," Randle said. "Things got tough and it was an up-and-down game, but we pulled it out and I'm just happy we got the win for our seniors tonight. We still have business to take care of in the Pac-12 Tournament next week, so we're looking forward to that."

Dallin Bachynski hit the tying free throws with 55.4 seconds left but Utah couldn't make a play when it mattered most.

"I don't consider them really giving us an opportunity," Krystkowiak said of Stanford's missed free throws. "From our perspective, it was a really gutsy performance. They scratch and claw to stay in it, and there's no shortage on our team in terms of the guts. Now we've got to start getting more physical and execute when it comes down the stretch like that."

After Bachynski's earlier go-ahead dunk for Utah, Josh Huestis hit a 3-pointer with 2:16 left but missed a pair of free throws at 1:54.

Nastic scored four points in a 6-0 spurt that put Stanford ahead 54-43 with 7:51 remaining, then Utah answered right back with an 8-0 run featuring back-to-back 3-pointers by Wright and Brandon Taylor and a layin from Jeremy Olsen.

The Cardinal made it tough on themselves down the stretch, missing seven straight free throws, including two by Randle, before Powel;'s game winner.

"I'm really not sure about the free throws," Randle said. "We probably weren't focusing, but that's something we have to work on in the upcoming days leading up to the Pac-12 Tournament. But we did defend tonight and that's what won the game for us."

Randle scored 11 of his points in the first half to help Stanford to a 33-25 lead at the break despite 55.8-percent shooting by Utah.