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Men’s basketball ices Berkeley in final minutes, keeps them winless in Pac-12

KZ Okpala drops a career-high 30 points and Josh Sharma takes a clutch charge to lift Stanford over Berkeley

Junior forward KZ Okpala took over the game on Sunday, leading the team with eight rebounds, four assists, and a career-high 30 points. The Cardinal knocked the Golden Bears down a peg, increasing their program-long losing streak to 10 games. (Erin Chang/isiphotos.com)

In the first Battle of the Bay, Stanford (11-10, 4-5 Pac-12) outlasted California (5-16, 0-9 Pac-12) to leave Haas Pavilion with an 84-81 victory. The Bears have lost 10 straight, matching the longest streak in school history.

Sophomore forward KZ Okpala shouldered a significant burden for the Cardinal, scoring a career-high 30 points and adding team highs of eight rebounds and four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Okpala’s made free throw with 12 seconds left forced Cal into a three-point attempt with the game on the line, which Paris Austin airballed.

Much of the controversy during the game hinged on a block call on senior center Josh Sharma that was overturned to send Okpala to the line. Initially, Sharma was determined to be inside the restricted zone, and the Cal fans said farewell after to the senior with “Hey hey hey, goodbye,” believing him to have fouled out. However, after replay review, Sharma was cleared of wrongdoing, and it was he who moments later was waving goodbye to the home crowd.

“It’s tough,” said Cal head coach Wyking Jones. “It’s a blow cause you think you’re that much closer to winning the game, but you know, its sports. It happens.”

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase had a different perception of the “dire situation” that would have resulted if Cal went to the line to complete an and-one and take the lead. “I felt very excited when they went to the monitor knowing there was still hope in that situation,” said Haase. “For Josh [Sharma] to make a big time play, a senior who continues to get better and believes in what we are doing, to make a play like that is really cool.”

Sharma had just two points, but added six rebounds. “It always feels good when you can silence an opposing crowd in their home court,” said Sharma. “Road wins are hard to get, especially against your rivals.”

Cal, who has yet to win in conference play, played to within three against a Pac-12 opponent after a previous lowest margin of nine. “I’m very proud of the effort and the fight that they showed today, but we came up short. We continue to work, we continue to trust the process, we continue to stay tight,” said Jones. “They gave us 40 minutes of effort and fight and grit.”

The Bears got most of their production from Justice Sueing. The sophomore led the team in points and rebounds with 23 and seven, respectively, while adding four assists. “It’s a trust-the-process thing,” said Sueing. “We just need to capitalize on a few plays and know that it’s going to help us win the game.”

Paris Austin and Connor Vanover each scored 15 for California, joined by Matt Bradley in double digits with 13. The 7 feet 3 inches Vanover went two for six on three-point attempts, terrorizing the Stanford defense. “I think we were a step slow every once in a while,” said Haase. “When he is making shots like that, he’s awfully good.”

On the Stanford side, freshman guard Bryce Wills started and scored 16, with sophomore point guard Daejon Davis tallying 14 more. It was a quiet performance for the Stanford bench, which was outscored 28-15 by Cal.  

Stanford will head to Oregon to continue its road trip, starting with Oregon State Thursday night.

 

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu

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