Photo credit: @StanfordMBB
By: Ana Kieu
The Stanford Cardinal, coming off a two-game winning streak, made sure to pay the Oregon State Beavers a visit inside the Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore. Thursday night. The tipoff has been set to 7:00 pm PT on the Pac-12 Network.
The Cardinal’s last two wins occurred at Cal in a 84-81 thriller on February 3rd and at home–Maples Pavilion–versus the Colorado State Buffaloes 75-62 on January 26th. The Cardinal has been a wishy-washy team this season, but at least they aren’t in the abyss like my alma mater, San Jose State Spartans, or some other hapless men’s basketball team out there.
Anyways, the Cardinal and Cal Bears were more of a Bay Area rivalry than anything else. The Cardinal has to be focused on the road ahead in the Pacific Northwest as the Beavers and Ducks will likely be tough customers. And, of course, the home court advantage that often shifts the game in favor of the home team.
Cardinal head coach Jerod Haase told the local media that Bryce Wills has been making plays and growing each game. Wills currently holds a career-high of 16 points. That’s definitely a good thing as the Cardinal need all the help they can get.
Before the Stanford vs. Oregon State game, it was announced that KZ Okpala was named one of ten finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award. Okpala was joined by Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, Nevada’s Caleb Martin, Michigan’s Charles Matthews, Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield, Iowa State’s Marial Shayok, Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle, and Belmont’s Dylan Windler.
Okpala leads Stanford in scoring (18.1 points per game), rebounding (6.1 rebounds per game), three-point field goal percentage (.410), free throws (87) and minutes (33.0 mpg). He ranks third in the Pac-12 in scoring, fifth in three-point field goal percentage, and 14th in rebounding. In conference play, the forward is averaging 20.4 points per game (ranks second) and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Okpala scored a career-high 30 points at Cal and leads the Pac-12 with 12 games of 20 points or more this season. He’s one of 10 individuals in the nation to average 21.0 points per game or better in their last six games.
“KZ has been a rock for us,” said the Cardinal’s Anne and Tony Joseph Director of Men’s Basketball. “He’s a foundational piece for everything we do. There’s so much more for him to grow, but he’s really developing very quickly. He certainly deserves the recognition. It is great to see him among the 10 candidates for this prestigious award.”
The nation has been taking notice of Okpala, including ESPN College Basketball Analyst Jay Bilas.