By Alexandra Evans
PALO ALTO—The Stanford Cardinal Men’s Basketball team faced their first Pac-12 opponent of the season and cross-Bay Area rivals, the California Golden Bears, at Maples Pavillion two days before the new year.
Don Coleman, Marcus Lee, Justice Sueing, Nick Hamilton, and Darius McNeill started for the visiting Golden Bears. Kezie Okpala, Daejon Davis, Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey, and Dorian Pickens (who was out with an injury earlier this season) started for the Cardinal.
Cal’s Marcus Lee made the first basket of the game 17 seconds in, and Stanford’s Michael Humphrey made the second basket 13 seconds later. Cal made another two baskets over the course of 24 seconds and exceeded Stanford by four points at the 1:25 mark, until Reid Travis got a layup 15 seconds later at the 1:40 mark and Dorian Pickens made a three-pointer at 2:16, commencing Stanford’s lead over Cal, which would gradually increase throughout the first half.
Stanford’s Michael Humphrey more than doubled the lead just over 4 minutes in (13-6), and Stanford upped their lead to 10 points at the halfway point of the first 20 minutes. The score more than doubled again at the 12-minute mark (25-12) when Kezie Okpala made a jumper, assisted by Robert Cartwright.
The energy on the court and in the stands amped up significantly in the remaining five minutes of the first half, during which Stanford did not let their lead drop below 11 points. Humphrey made a dunk at 18:06 which put the Cardinal at a 14-point lead over the Bears, followed by a three-pointer from Dorian Pickens, bringing the lead to 17 points and then down to 15 after Cal’s Justice Sueing made two free throws following a foul on Oscar da Silva. Coleman made a three-pointer for the Bears with 30 seconds left in the half, and the Cardinal exceeded the Bears 37-24 at halftime.
Cal would slowly catch up to Stanford throughout the second half, and eventually exceed them. Coleman made the first basket, cutting Stanford’s lead over Cal to 11 points, and then by 10 points at the 3:18 mark when Lee got a jumper. Humphrey scored for Stanford, then Sueing for Cal, and the Cardinal’s lead was once again a point away from the single digits. Every time Stanford’s lead was cut to 10 points, they would score again to keep their lead above it through the first 10 minutes of the second half. Lee dunked for Cal, and less than a minute later, Josh Sharma made a jumper followed by a layup from Travis, giving Stanford a 15-point lead (55-40) at 6:43. The score was 60-45 just after the 10-minute mark, courtesy of Humphrey’s layup. 20 seconds later, McNeill got a 3-pointer for Cal. Stanford attained a 17 point lead after a 3-pointer from Davis with 9:28 remaining in the half.
Stanford’s lead was cut to single-digits when Cal’s Kingsley Okoroh got a layup with 6:12 left; they only led Cal by nine points. Coleman got a layup almost a minute after Okoroh, bringing the score to 66-59. Humphrey dunked for the Cardinal, inching the way back to a double-digit lead. He made a jumper one minute after his dunk and brought Stanford’s lead to 11 points once again. However, McNeill made a three-pointer for Cal directly after, followed by two layups and a free-throw from Sueing; Cal trailed by only three points. Travis quickly retaliated for Stanford with a layup and a free throw, bringing their lead up to six points. With 1:17 left in the game, Grant Anticevich made a three-pointer for Cal, making the score 73-72, giving Cardinal fans a “sudden death” feeling. Sueing got a layup and a free throw, and the Bears led the Cardinal for the first time since the beginning of the match (73-75). Travis was given two free throw opportunities with 20 seconds left in the match, only one of which he made. Davis was then fouled for Stanford, and Coleman, with two free-throw opportunities, made both for Cal with 17 seconds remaining. Travis had a chance at a three-pointer in the final seconds, but could not make it past Cal’s defense.
The Bears took home a 77-74 win.
“You go into every game confident that you’re going to win,” Humphrey said after being asked about the expectations of facing an identically ranked team. “We were all fired up to play [a rivalry game]. We wanted to start off Pac-12 play the right way, but we didn’t do that.”
Stanford struggled to make a majority of their free throws, which could have been the “make or break” of the overall score.
“I’ve probably worked more with free throws and shot more with [Stanford] than any other team I’ve ever had,” said Coach Jerod Haase. “To miss 16 free throws is going to be a problem. Ideally, you don’t get into that situation if the lead [in points] is a little bit bigger.”
Haase continued, “The experience and the cohesion of playing together is still growing, as is the execution of everything we are doing. But at the end of the day, you find ways to get stops at the end of a game… this game is going to sting, it’s going to hurt, but I feel as though we are building a foundation of something special.”
Both Stanford and Cal were 6-7 going into the match; one could argue that the outcome was going to be unpredictable. Stanford’s leader in points, Travis, averages 21.4 points per game (almost double that of his runner-up, Michael Humphrey, who has an average of 11.6 points per game). Cal’s point leader, Coleman, averages 20.5 points per game.
The Stanford Men’s Basketball team will commence the new year with a home match against the UCLA Bruins on January 4, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.