Photo credit: @StanfordMBB
By: Eric Epstein
PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Pac-12-leading Arizona Wildcats visited The Farm on Wednesday night, where they bested the Stanford Cardinal with a score of 75-70. Stanford’s conference record drops to 0-3 after this loss, with their previous defeats coming in their recent Southern California road trip to UCLA and USC.
The game was back-and-forth throughout both halves, with the largest margin of victory coming at the beginning of the game when Arizona jumped out to a 7-0 lead. The first lead change of the game occurred over 13 minutes into the first half, when Stanford briefly claimed a 2-point lead with two Daejon Davis free throws. After a short Arizona run led by sophomore forward Ira Lee and senior guard Justin Coleman, Stanford narrowed the Wildcat lead to 2 points when Davis sunk a running layup to beat the halftime buzzer.
Although there were only 3 lead changes in the second half, the lead for either team never rose above 6 points. Sophomore KZ Okpala showcased his offensive firepower as he scored 16 second half points on 6-9 shooting and going 4-5 from the free throw line. Although Arizona did not shoot efficiently in the second half with a 36.7% field goal percentage, their consistent free throw shooting and ball security gave them just enough to pull away with a five-point win.
Senior Josh Sharma started the game at center for the Cardinal, but when he committed two fouls in the first two minutes of play, Head Coach Jerod Haase gave freshman Lukas Kisunas a chance at the five off the bench. Although Kisunas contributed nicely in the first half with 5 rebounds, he did not see much time on the court in the second half, where Sharma played a larger role for Haase.
The Arizona frontcourt dealt with foul trouble of their own, with Lee as well as senior forward Ryan Luther picking up 3 first-half fouls. Junior center and the team’s second-leading scorer Chase Jeter fouled out with 2-and-a-half minutes left in the contest.
Although Stanford attempted 8 more free throws than Arizona, the Wildcats shot 89% from the charity stripe, a much more efficient clip than Stanford’s 58%. Arizona also had more team assists, bench points, offensive rebounds, and points off turnovers. The Cardinal only made 1 three-point shot out of the 8 that they attempted, whereas the Wildcats made 7 of 12 of their threes.
KZ Okpala led the game in scoring with 29 points on 11-16 shooting and 7-12 from the foul line, although he did not make either of his three-point attempts. Daejon Davis pitched in 15 points of his own, but he had a subpar assist-to-turnover ratio with 3 assists and 6 turnovers. The Cardinal as a team were not too careful with the ball, as they coughed the ball up 19 times over the course of the game.
Stanford will have a few days of rest and practice before hosting the Arizona State Sun Devils in a Pac-12 matchup on January 12 at 3:00 pm.