LAS VEGAS — Stanford’s win over Washington State to open the Pac-12 tournament was more of a placeholder, a game that only meant something if the Cardinal lost it.
Beating Arizona State, particularly the dominating way they won it — that could go a long way to boosting the Cardinal’s NCAA tournament resume.
Stanford shut down Arizona State’s best players and pulled away with a dominating second-half offensive performance, picking up a marquee win by blowing out third-seeded Arizona State 79-58 Thursday night in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.
“It’s one of the efforts we’ve had this season, where we’ve put everything together on both ends of the floor,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
An NCAA bubble team coming into the tournament, the Cardinal took care of business by beating Washington State in the quarterfinals and, less than 24 hours later, looked like they had the opening-round bye, not the Sun Devils.
Stanford (21-11) built any early 10-point lead, answered when Arizona State tried to make a run and turned it into a rout with array of shots from everywhere on the floor.
Chasson Randle scored 21 points, Dwight Powell added 15 points and the Cardinal shot 54 percent to earn a spot in Friday’s semifinals against second-seeded UCLA — not to mention strengthen their NCAA tournament chances.
“Obviously, this time of year that’s kind of something that’s always in the back of your mind, but we started out this season with one main goal and that’s to win the Pac-12,” said Stanford forward Josh Huestis, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. “The rest will take care of itself.”
Arizona State (21-11) got off to a sluggish start for the third straight game and never fully recovered as its top players struggled against Stanford’s defense.
Point guard Jahii Carson had a hard time breaking free from the Cardinal’s defenders, scoring 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Second-leading scorer Jermaine Marshall went 2 of 8 for four points and center Jordan Bachynski had seven points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Jonathan Gilling had 13 points and Bo Barnes added 12 in the Sun Devils’ most lopsided loss of the season.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “We tried to do things late in the game, but it just got away from us.”
After failing to live up to expectations in Carson’s first season in the desert, the Sun Devils have put themselves in position to make the bracket for the first time since 2009 after winning 21 games in one of the nation’s most difficult schedules.
Arizona State stumbled at the end of the regular season, losing to both Oregon schools, but still managed to earn the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and a bye for the first round.
Stanford had to play in the opening round Wednesday night and pulled away from Washington State in the second half for an 11-point win.
Despite being rested, the Sun Devils looked like the team that played the night before, missing its first seven shots with a pair of turnovers to fall into a 9-0 hole.
That’s not much of a surprise, though; Arizona State was down 15-0 and 9-1 in its losses to Oregon and Oregon State.
The Sun Devils finally sorted things out and got back into the game with an array of 3-pointers: three by Gilling, two by Barnes.
Stanford had a few shooting problems of its own — 3 for 11 from the arc — but still managed to lead 30-27 at halftime.
The Cardinal opened the second half by making six of their first eight shots and held Arizona State without a field goal for more than 4 minutes, stretching the lead to 45-34 on a 3-pointer by John Gage.
Arizona State tried to make a couple of runs, pulling within six at one point, but Stanford hit 17 of 24 shots in the half to stretch the lead.
“We’ve had horrible starts our last three games,” Bachynski said. “We have to figure out what’s wrong and adjust accordingly.”