Photo credit: @StanfordMBB
By: Eric Epstein
PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Stanford Cardinal men’s basketball team hosted the Utah Utes on Thursday night in a crucial Pac-12 matchup. The Cardinal ended up falling to the Utes in Palo Alto for the first time since 1971, with a final score of 70-66.
Utah gained some separation in the crowded Pac-12 with their win as they move up to join the Arizona State Sun Devils for third in the conference. Stanford slides to 2-5 in conference play, where they now occupy the ninth spot in the conference standings.
The first half was played at a blistering pace, with a total of two free throws attempted in the half and with each team attempting close to 30 field goals. Stanford missed their first 5 three-point attempts and finished the half 1-6 from deep. On the other end, Utah closed out the first half with a three-point barrage en route to an incredibly efficient 5-7 clip from downtown. Utah went 7-9 for their last 9 field goal attempts of the half, and freshman forward Timmy Allen’s last-second layup stretched the Utes’ lead to 5 at the half.
Sophomore forward KZ Okpala opened the half off right for the Cardinal, slamming down a thunderous dunk on Stanford’s first second-half possession.
Despite Utah’s hot first-half shooting, they did not attempt a three-point shot until halfway through the second half.
After sophomore guard Daejon Davis hit a mid-range floater with 16:08 left in the game to give Stanford a 1-point lead, the Cardinal held the lead until senior Utah guard Sedrick Barefield got an extremely fortunate bounce on his 3-point attempt to give the Utes the lead with 2:12 remaining. The next possession, Okpala responded with a three-point basket of his own to even the score.
Senior Utah guard Parker Van Dyke finished a tough layup around senior center Josh Sharma to give Utah a 2-point lead with less than a minute left. After that basket, the Cardinal had to play the foul game in attempt to catch up with the Utes. However, Barefield cooly hit all 4 of his free throws down the stretch and Stanford could not make up the deficit.
Okpala led the game in scoring with 22 points on 7-15 shooting, but with a shaky 7-11 free throw performance. Davis, who started the game 0-6 on field goals, turned his night around in the second half and finished with 17 points on 7-16 shooting along with 4 assists and only 2 turnovers.
Sharma, who is very susceptible to getting in foul trouble, did not get into serious foul trouble until the final minute of the game. He ended up seeing the court for 34 minutes and finished with 12 rebounds and 9 points on 3-6 shooting.
Sophomore forward Oscar da Silva, who started the game, did not record a single point on 3 field goal attempts, despite seeing 28 minutes of playing time. Freshman forward Jaden Delaire picked up the offensive slack dropped by da Silva by scoring 7 points on 3-4 shooting.
Utah had three double-digit scorers in Barefield (18), Van Dyke (10), and sophomore forward Donnie Tillman (11). The Utes finished with a very impressive 64.3% of their 3-point shots falling and a respectable 47% general field goal percentage.
Stanford finished with more offensive and defensive rebounds, assists, fast break points, and points in the paint. The Cardinal also blocked Utah 10 times, where Utah did not record a single blocked shot all night. However, Utah’s more efficient scoring made the difference and helped hand the Cardinal their fifth Pac-12 loss of the season.
The Stanford will shift their focus to their eighth Pac-12 game where they will host the Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 5:00 PM PST.