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Stanford wins road bout with UNC-Wilmington

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Another sterling performance from Okpala powers Cardinal

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament - Stanford vs UCLA Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating Seattle, Jerod Haase stressed that his team would have to come to play against a full, rocking house in Wilmington. Early in the game the Seahawks confirmed his fears, as they led by as many as 8 points. But the fans’ cheers of “Hawk Yeah!” quickly turned to “Hawk No!” as Stanford ripped off a 17-0 run to go into the break with a 14 point cushion. The Cardinal would never relinquish the lead, ultimately coming away with a 72-59 victory and moving to 2-0 on the season.

The run was sparked on the defensive end of the court. Early in the game the UNCW guards were able to penetrate and score at the rim. Stanford subsequently extended its perimeter defense, causing the Seahawks to catch the ball further out. They also switched the majority of screens, utilizing the length and versatility of the roster. It worked, and UNCW was thrown completely out of their sets. Over the final 7:30 of the half, the Seahawks went 0-8 from the field and committed 7 turnovers. Stanford went into the half up 39-25.

In the second half the plucky home squad kept battling, keeping the lead around 10 points. But every time they seemed primed to cut further into the margin, Stanford’s overplays on the perimeter led to breakaway layups, including a highlight and-one finish by freshman Cormac Ryan.

KZ Okpala turned in another strong game. After scoring 29 points on Tuesday, the lanky sophomore poured in 23 more tonight on just 14 shots. He got to the rim almost at will, and was rewarded with 11 foul shots. He was also a difference maker on the defensive end, credited with 3 steals and a blocked shot. To understand how much Haase values his play, Okpala has sat for just 3 minutes through the first two games, despite a deep Stanford lineup.

One of the biggest stories of the game was the foul trouble on Wilmington’s star, Devontae Cacok. The burly forward was the nation’s leading rebounder a year ago, and was coming off another double-double against Campbell. Cacok picked up his second foul just six minutes into the first half, and rode the pine until the break. This was significant, as he punished Stanford when on the court, going for 14-7 in 20 minutes before ultimately fouling out. UNCW was +5 with him on the court and -18 with him off.

Cormac Ryan had a good second game, scoring 14 points despite a cold outside shooting night and foul trouble of his own. Marcus Sheffield added 8 points off the bench, and 3 big steals. Bryce Wills made his Stanford debut tonight, scoring 3 points and showcasing some of his defensive versatility.

Stanford made a rare Power 5 road trip to a mid-major arena. CB McGrath, UNCW’s head coach, was Jerod Haase’s teammate and roommate at Kansas. Next year the two teams will meet for the second leg of the series in Maples Pavilion.

The Cardinal head to Chapel Hill to face the 8th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday. They’ll need to clean some things up if they hope to pull off the upset, namely the 8 turnovers by Daejon Davis and Josh Sharma’s 4 personal fouls in just 5 minutes.