Photo credit: @StanfordMBB
By: Eric Epstein
PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Stanford Cardinal avenged their Jan. 3rd loss to the UCLA Bruins by blowing them out with a score of 104-80 on Saturday evening. The Cardinal have now won 5 out of their last 6 Pac-12 games, pushing their in-conference record to 7-6. The Bruins move to 13-13 on the season and 6-7 in-conference.
When the Cardinal and Bruins met in Los Angeles earlier this year, the Bruins imposed their will on their guests, blowing them out by 22 points. The Cardinal, however, one-upped the Bruins by welcoming them to Maples Pavilion with a 24-point beatdown. Saturday marks the first time since 2013 that the Cardinal have scored over 100 points in a game.
Stanford outscored UCLA in the first half 49-40, powered by their 22 points in the paint along with 22 bench points. Despite sophomore guard Jaylen Hands’ 17 first half points on 6-8 shooting, the Bruins only managed to shoot 39% from the field, turning over the ball 8 times in the process. After Bryce Wills committed 2 quick fouls for the Cardinal, fellow freshman guard Cormac Ryan picked up the slack off the bench by making his first five shots and pitching in a team-leading 14 first half points.
Sophomore forward and Stanford’s leading scorer KZ Okpala had an extraordinarily sleepy first half where he started the night 0-4 and finished the period with a notably inefficient 2-7 shooting mark.
After a basket malfunction caused an extended halftime delay, the Cardinal quickly increased their lead to 20+ points thanks to dynamic play from senior center Josh Sharma, sophomore guard Daejon Davis, Wills, and Ryan.
The game flow of the second half came screeching to a halt, as the referees blew the whistle 13 times against each team. UCLA won the free throw battle, going 25-35, compared to the Cardinal’s 20 makes in 28 attempts.
With less than 5 minutes to play in the game, Okpala and Wills both endured hard falls to the hardwood after fouls at the rim. They both left the game momentarily but returned to after a brief seat.
The Cardinal finished with a season-high 5 players scoring in double digits with Sharma, Okpala, Davis, Wills, and Ryan all filling up the bucket at an exceedingly high clip.
Sharma, who was able to stay out of foul trouble for most of the night, led the team in scoring with 22 points on an insanely efficient 91% field goal percentage. In the second half alone, he wreaked havoc on the emergency replacement rims, throwing the ball down 5 times. He also grabbed a game-leading 12 rebounds.
Davis finished with 11 assists, the highest total for a Stanford player this season. He also coughed the ball up one time over the course of the game, an arguably more impressive feat.
After only playing 3 minutes in the first half, Wills played a very solid second half where he scored 10 points on 3-4 from the field and 4-5 from the foul line, also tallying 3 assists along the way.
Okpala turned his night around and scored 13 second-half points, shooting 50% from the field and throwing down an extremely athletic alley-oop dunk out of an inbounds play.
Ryan cooled down after his blazingly hot first half, and he only scored 5 points in the second period. He finished the night with 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Hands never looked back after his monster first half, as he finished with a game-high 29 points on 8-14 shooting from the field and went 10-11 from the charity stripe. He and freshman guard Jules Bernard were the only reliable offensive weapons for the Bruins, and the loss surely would have been a lot uglier if they weren’t able to carry the offensive load that they did.
The Cardinal will try to build off of their Pac-12 momentum when they visit ASU and Arizona for their last road trip of the regular season before hosting their last three Pac-12 games at Maples.