By Sally Egan
In a game that ended closer than some anticipated, the Stanford men’s basketball team (7-8, 0-3 Pac-12) fell to Arizona (12-4, 3-0 Pac-12) by a final score of 70-75. From Arizona’s four-game winning streak to the surprisingly large number of Wildcat fans that turned out, the Cardinal knew they were facing their toughest home opponent yet. The Arizona men’s basketball team is no Eastern Washington or Portland State; they’ve been to the NCAA tournament the past six seasons in a row.
While Stanford had three fouls within the first two minutes of the game, they soon settled down and sophomore point guard Daejon Davis put the Cardinal on the board with two free throws. Free throws would prove to be key to the game overall. While Stanford led the first half with 11 points off free throws compared to Arizona’s 4, the Cardinal’s free throw percentage over the course of the game was 57.7 percent, not great in comparison to the Wildcats’ 88.9 percent.
However, after allowing an early basket to Arizona, Stanford showed that they would put up a fight with a block by sophomore forward Oscar Da Silva. Da Silva also contributed a dunk early in the game, drawing a foul in the process and bringing excitement to the crowd at Maples. He finished the night with nine points and a team-leading four blocks.
Following Da Silva’s dunk, sophomore forward KZ Okpala continued to build Cardinal momentum with a dunk of his own which also drew a foul from Arizona and brought the game within three points. Okpala had an outstanding night across the board, leading the team with nine fouls drawn, four assists and 29 points, a stat which tied a career high. He also contributed a steal and six rebounds.
The half progressed with the two teams seemingly evenly matched. While Arizona was shooting very well from outside, led by 17 points and three 3-point baskets from guard Brandon Randolph, they also fouled a lot and rebounded poorly, allowing Stanford to stay in the game. By the end of the half, Stanford had only led for a total of 13 seconds but led in many statistical categories including rebounds, blocks, points from fast breaks and field goal percentage. While Stanford coach Jerod Haase felt the team started somewhat sluggish, the Cardinal went into the half down by only two thanks to a last-second layup by Davis.
In many ways, the second half started off like a continuation of the first. Both teams were evenly exchanging baskets, with Stanford drawing fouls and rebounding well while Arizona continued their field goal success. The Cardinal got their first lead of the second half off of two free throws by Okpala. They then rebounded a missed Arizona shot, which led to a Stanford shot and a goaltending call against Arizona. The Wildcats called a timeout as Stanford fans, players and coaches alike all expressed elation at the Cardinal’s biggest lead of the game up to that point.
Stanford pulled to a six-point lead, but the tides began to shift towards Arizona’s favor with a layup by guard Dylan Smith, who drew a foul on the shot and then made the free throw. Stanford scored once more before the Wildcats went on a 10-0 run, leading 57-52 before the Cardinal scored again with 8:37 remaining. While Arizona led by seven points at most for the remainder of the half, Stanford never retook the lead.
At the end of the game, it almost seemed like Stanford could pull off the upset, with Josh Sharma dunking with 1:13 remaining to bring the Wildcats’ lead to one point. An Arizona layup with 41 seconds left sealed the Arizona victory, though, leading the heartbroken Cardinal to their third straight loss.
“It hurts, going into [the game] we knew they’d beat us 17 times in a row before this, so this meant a lot to us,” noted Sharma, who finished the game with eight points. Stanford looks to rebound from the loss on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Maples against Arizona State (10-4, 1-1 PAC-12).
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu