Stanford Steals Win With OT Buzzer Beater at USC
Nov. 16, 2013
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- After trailing for over 21 minutes -- and by as much as three goals -- the No. 2 USC men's water polo team stole back into the lead during overtime of the Trojans' home showdown against No. 4 Stanford. USC's biggest lead of the game came on a blast from Connor Virjee midway through the first overtime, but Stanford clawed back and tied it up on a buzzer-beater by Paul Rudolph. Three minutes later, Rudolph erased the need for a sudden-death OT with one last buzzer-beater, this one the winner to hand Stanford a 17-16 victory over host USC at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. USC goes to 22-3 overall and 4-2 in MPSF play in having its 35-game home win streak snapped by the Cardinal.
The game itself was an emotional roller coaster no matter which side you were on. USC took the first lead, but Stanford tied it up on three occasions before edging into the lead during the second period of play. Then it was USC's turn to fight back, and the Trojans forced two more ties before halftime. With 1:09 to go before the break, Stanford's Rudolph gave us a glimpse of his potential when he got Stanford ahead 6-5 on a 6-on-5.
In the third, the drama cranked up higher for USC as the Cardinal put the Trojans in a three-goal hole, up 8-5 on two early natural goals. A power play blast form Nikola Vavic and another slick score from Rex Butler dragged USC back within one, down 8-7 with 1:25 to go. The final minute of the third was action-packed, as Stanford converted on two more 6-on-5 opportunities while USC's Mace Rapsey rocketed one for the Trojans from the post. Stanford made good on its last power play chance, though, staking the Cardinal to a 10-8 advantage entering the fourth period.
Once again, the Cardinal were clicking out of the gates, scoring early to again dig a three-goal hole for the Trojans. But even when a 6-on-5 opportunity went awry for the Trojans on their next possession, USC was up to the challenge. Virjee rifled one in to provide a spark, and a minute later Vavic finished off a feed from Rapsey for a searing score that cut the score to 11-10. On the defensive end, USC goalie James Clark put a stop to a Stanford 6-on-5, and the USC defense came up with a steal and a field block on its next series. The Cardinal would break through with its next power play, however, and USC was back to a two-goal deficit with 2:09 to go in regulation. Cue senior Rapsey. He'd rip one in with 1:40 to go, and then and the steal at the other end. Kostas Genidounias deposited a dirty look-away score nearside, and USC was even with the Cardinal for the first time since the second period of play. A stalemate ensued for the next 1:11, and the teams set up for overtime.
USC's first lead since that same second period came on another rocket from Genidounias. Rudolph was there for the equalizer, and then Vavic delivered a blistering score for another USC lead, up 14-13 with 2:07 on the clock. Vavic would next set up Virjee for a nearside laser that gave USC its largest lead of the game, up 15-13 with 1:23 left in the first OT. Stanford got set up with a 6-on-5 soon after, however, and got it to go. And with time draining quickly on the first three-minute frame of overtime, Rudolph found his way to the back of the net at the buzzer to bring up the eighth lock-up of the game at 15-15.
The next three-minute window was put up on the board, and the teams went right back to work. Rapsey again proved too strong for Stanford goalie Drew Holland, as the senior's bullet broke through on USC's first possession of the frame. USC shut down the Cardinal for the next two minutes, only to see Alex Bowen tally his fifth goal of the game with the equalizer with 33 ticks to go. Just as sudden-death OT looked certain, Rudolph decided otherwise. Just as the buzzer sounded, Rudolph ripped one last try from distance, skipping it through traffic and in to stun the Trojans with the 17-16 overtime win in Stanford's favor.
USC now sets up for its final home game of the year when No. 8 Long Beach State comes to town tomorrow (Nov. 17) for a 12 p.m. MPSF match at Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
#4 Stanford 17, #2 USC 16 (OT)
SAVES: James Clark (USC) 7, Drew Holland (STAN) 13.