In many ways Stanford (9-10, 2-5) outplayed the Utes (10-8, 4-2). They just forgot to win.
Stanford’s defense came out of the gates locked in. They had Utah completely flummoxed in the half court, and five different players combined to reject 6 Ute shots in the game’s first 8 minutes. On the game, they blocked 10. “It’s always an emphasis to play with great energy and passion,” said Jerod Haase. “Our guys played their tails off.”
In one sequence, Utah’s Donnie Tillman had his dunk tipped away by Jaiden Delaire. Stanford subsequently lost possession on the other end, and the ball was passed ahead to the cherry-picking Tillman, who seemed to be all alone. Somehow, Bryce Wills kept pace with the ball in the air, getting there just in time to deny Tillman at the rim.
The Cardinal did not get off to as strong a start offensively. Daejon Davis missed his first 6 shots from the field, and the turnovers once again began to pile up. They wasted the defensive start, and were unable to push the lead to more than 5. That’s when Parker Van Dyke went on a personal 8-0 run to help the Utes snatch back the advantage. The visitors ended the half on a 13-3 run, taking a 31-26 lead into the locker room. They shot 5-7 from distance.
In the second half, the Cardinal offense finally hit its stride. Stanford went on an early 7-0 run to take the lead right back, spearheaded by the strong play of Daejon Davis. The sophomore point guard hit his first 5 shots of the period, and dished out three assists.
Stanford built the lead up to as much as 6, and seemed in control of the game, until Sedrick Barefield woke up. The veteran had been held in check all night by Daejon Davis, who got in his shirt and forced an uncharacteristic 4 turnovers. But players like Barefield can only be held in check for so long. He shook free from Davis just enough to hit consecutive threes, sparking a late 8-0 run to give Utah the lead. The normally quiet Maples began to buzz with nervous excitement.
Barefield hit yet another three with 2 minutes remaining, but two possessions later KZ Okpala answered from the wing to tie it up. Out of a timeout, Parker Van Dyke hit a layup high over Josh Sharma. Okpala answered with a trip to the line, but he split the pair. After that, Stanford was stuck in the fouling game. Their lone opportunity from that point came when a Josh Sharma putback fell off the rim, in what could’ve been a game-tying and-one. Barefield knocked down all four of his shots from the line to seal the deal.
“I thought Daejon was fantastic. There’s a reason [Barefield] might be the best guard in the conference,” said Coach Haase. Stanford shot a higher 2 point percentage than Utah. They also had more rebounds, and steals, and blocks, and points in the paint, and second chance points. But Utah had Sedrick Barefield, and they shot a timely 9-14 from distance. That was too much for the Cardinal to overcome.
KZ Okpala led Stanford with 22 points, eclipsing 20 for a conference-leading 11th time. Daejon Davis had 17 points, 15 coming after the break. Josh Sharma added 9 and 12, along with 4 blocks, in a career high 34 minutes.
Oscar da Silva was scoreless, highlighting the need for a consistent tertiary scorer to accompany Okpala and Davis. This has been especially pronounced with Cormac Ryan still sidelined. “We’re gonna have to make more threes,” said Haase.
Barefield led the Utes with 18 points on 4-5 from three. Donnie Tillman and Parker Van Dyke were both 2-4 from the outside and scored 11 and 10, respectively.
Stanford hosts Colorado on Saturday. It’s a very winnable one for the Cardinal, and one they might need if they have hopes of putting together a strong conference record. “Win or lose, our mindset is to get better,” said Haase.