Rivalries seem to bring the best out of their competitors. Games that on paper shouldn’t be close are much more competitive than they would be otherwise.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal this means that Cal (8-19, 2-12), the worst team in the Pac-12, plays its best games against its Bay Area neighbor, including a victory against the Cardinal in Maples back in December.
However, this time Stanford men’s basketball (14-13, 8-6 Pac-12) were able to eke out a 77-73 victory in enemy territory against the Bears on Sunday night.
The Cardinal leaned heavily on their freshman point guard Daejon Davis to keep them afloat against an inspired Bears team. Davis came through with one of the best games of his young career. He scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out five assists.
His ability to command the offense was essential as Stanford struggled to get through Cal’s full-court and 2-3 zone without Davis handling the ball.
He was in foul trouble for most of the game, picking up two in the first three minutes of the second half, but Davis was able to stave off fouling out until he had picked up his fifth with 2:11 left in the game.
His freshman teammates were huge in the second half. Forward KZ Okpala, who already is the team’s best defender according to Stanford head coach Jerod Haase, scored all nine of his points in the second half. One of the surprises of the game was Okpala’s free-throw shooting.
Coming into the game shooting 56.3 percent from the free throw line, Okpala hit 7-8 on his free throws, which kept the Cardinal afloat in spots during the game.
Forward Oscar Da Silva was tremendous on the defensive end, especially at the end of the game. He contested numerous Bears shots and blocked two shots. Da Silva also drew a charge off of Cal’s Juhwan Harris Dyson when the Cardinal were only up by one with 3:46 remaining, and then he dunked it on the other end.
The play was at a critical juncture for the Cardinal and Da Silva made the plays.
The seniors on the team, guard Dorian Pickens and forward Reid Travis, were not to be outdone by their younger teammates.
Pickens scored 17 points on 6-of-10 from the field, and 10 his points came in the second half. His ability to find the holes in Cal’s zone defense was important for a team struggling to break the Bears’ defense.
Travis recorded another double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Cardinal began the game strong going on a 10-2 run at the start. The combination of Bears Harris-Dyson and Justice Sueing brought Cal back into the game.
However, the Bears were led in scoring by backup guard Don Coleman (17 points). Coleman had nine points on 4-of-9 shooting, but the Cardinal put the clamps on him in the second half, holding him to 2-of-10 from the field.
Up 75-73 with 10 seconds left, the Cardinal needed to hit free throws to put the game away. Stanford has been struggling to hit free throws all season, second to last in the Pac-12 in percentage, so it needed Pickens to be clutch.
One free throw made and Cal is one three-point shot away from sending the game overtime. Making both would be certain victory for Stanford.
Pickens came through and nailed both shots to put the Cardinal up by four. Cal’s last prayer went unanswered and Stanford came out with the victory.
The Cardinal come back south to play the Washington schools in Maples Pavilion. Washington arrives on Thursday at 6 p.m. and Washington State arrives on Saturday at 4 p.m. The games will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.