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Cal Basketball

Stanford Preview: Bears Looking for Payback Vs. Talented Cardinal

March 6, 2019

Now that they finally can stop talking about a losing streak after sweeping the Washington schools in Berkeley last weekend, Cal’s basketball players want to close out the regular season with three consecutive wins.

To do so they will have to beat Stanford (15-14, 8-9 Pac-12) on the Cardinal’s home floor Thursday night. The Bears (7-22, 2-15) lost the first matchup at Haas Pavilion Feb. 3, 84-81.

”It was a real battle, and it went down to the wire,” Cal freshman guard Matt Bradley said this week.

Bradley, of course, was involved “at the wire.”With the Bears trailing, 83-81, inside the final half minute, Bradley successfully hit a layup and he was colliding with Stanford’s Josh Sharma, who initially was called for his fifth foul. Before Bradley could attempt the tying free throw, the bucket was waved off and Bradley, rather than Sharma, was called for the foul. Stanford added a free throw for the final score.

“This is the game I’m looking forward to most in the season,”Bradley said. “I think our team is ready to play.”

The Bears had better be. The mediocre record aside, Stanford has plenty of talent. It starts with 6-9 sophomore KZ Okpala. He averages 17.0 points per game, and went for 30 in the first matchup.

“He did an unbelievable job of getting into the lane and finishing,” Cal head coach Wyking Jones said of the Cardinal star. “We are going to have to limit his paint touches. As a team they don’t shoot the three-ball, they don’t rely on the three to win games like some other teams in the league. What they do like to do is get the ball in the paint, whether it’s post-up or penetration we’re going to have to do a good job limiting their paint touches.”

Davis, who was injured in Stanford’s 98-50 victory over Washington State Thursday and didn’t play Sunday against the Huskies. He is listed on Stanford’s projected starting lineup. ”He’s a big guard,. He’s the guy that makes them go,” Jones said, “ He’s talented. … When they need a bucket he seems to find a way to get one, whether it’s a three, or maybe getting to the rim. He’s their primary ball-handler,  and when he goes out of the game I think their ball-handling takes a dip.”

Sharma (dunking above), the seven-foot senior center who was plagued by foul trouble in the first meeting and scored just two points, is being promoted by the Stanford publicity department as the Most Improved Player in the conference.

Here is what their press release says: “In his first three seasons, the center averaged 3.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg. Last season, he averaged 3.5 ppg and 2.3 rpg. This year, Sharma is averaging 9.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg. He has 288 points this season, after combining for 268 points over his first three seasons. Sharma ranks in the top-10 in the Pac12 in rebounds, offensive rebounds, blocks, and field goal percentage. His 69.8 percent field goal percentage not only leads the conference, it is the highest mark in 22 seasons.”

Jones is certainly impressed. “Josh Sharma’s playing great basketball. He is playing the type of basketball I’m sure they expected him to play when they recruited him,” Jones said. “He’s got like two conference Player of Week awards so far this year. We have to limit what he does.

“:He is a big strong athlete. He does a great job of finishing at the rim. Now he’s kind of got a floater in the lane that he’s good at . . .  He’s a 7-foot athlete that’s very active. He’s somebody you have to pay attention to.”

Sharma is an imposing figure on defense, and is averaging 1.5 blocks per game in conference play. As announcer Corey Williams said on the telecast of Stanford’s loss to Washington on Sunday,” When you drive on Sharma, he only seems to get bigger.”


Cal leads the all-time series 149-125. ..Stanford is 11-3 at home this season. ...Forward Oscar da Silva had 15 points against Washington, shooting 5-for-8 from the floor. ..Williams said he played, “Probably his best game as a Cardinal” ... He is averaging 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds in the last 10 games. Overall the respective numbers are 9.8 and 5.9 rpg. overall….Freshman  Cormac Ryan has 47 three-pointers,(fourth most in school history by a freshman ,,,.All seven of Cal’s wins have come at home. ...As the 12th and bottom seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Bears will play the No. 5 seed on Wednesday, March 6 at 2:30 p.m. in Las Vegas. The opponent probably won’t be determined until all the games are played this weekend,


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