Late controversial call propels Stanford to win over Cal men’s basketball

Basketball player runs up the court with ball in hand as another player attempts to block him and other chase him.
Jessica Schwabach/Staff

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Over the marathon that is a college basketball game, an officiating staff will make hundreds of decisions. It’s hard to pinpoint one call as the sole proprietor of a game’s fate but on Sunday, the outcome of Cal and Stanford’s latest duel could be traced back to a single controversial call, one that pushed the needle in the latter’s favor.

With about 17 seconds remaining, the Bears’ Matt Bradley barreled into the paint, banged bodies with the Cardinal’s Josh Sharma and banked in a desperation layup high off the glass as he crashed to the floor, plus the foul. Bradley’s acrobatic, miraculous bucket tied Cal and Stanford up at 83 all with a chance for the freshman to give his squad the lead.

The fun lasted about a minute.

Following the bucket, officials went to the monitor and the call was overturned, going from a blocking foul on Sharma to a charge on Bradley. Upon review, Sharma’s feet were clearly outside of the restricted area.

Bradley’s game-tying bucket was flipped to a charge, and the score was reverted back to 83-81 in the Cardinal’s favor with 13 seconds remaining.

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Hope wasn’t entirely lost when KZ Okpala, who finished with 30 points, missed one of two free throws after being fouled on the ensuing inbounds, giving Stanford only a three-point lead. Despite having several three-point threats available, it was Paris Austin who took the game-tying attempt from several feet beyond the arc, an attempt he would badly airball.

Cal threw its best haymaker, but it was Stanford that notched the latest win in the historic rivalry, 84-81.

“First of all, I didn’t know that you could overturn a call,” said head coach Wyking Jones. “Mike Reed is a great official. He went to the monitor and saw something different, so I have to respect the call.”

“I didn’t know what they were reviewing, I just saw them around the monitor. I was hoping for the best,” Sharma said as he chuckled. “I was pretty sure my feet were outside (the restricted area) and I was set. I was surprised they didn’t call it a charge initially, but I’m glad they were able to change that one.”

The residual damage of the game-deciding call made irrelevant some otherwise fantastic performances by the Bears. Justice Sueing recorded 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Matt Bradley dished out a career-high six assists, two of which were of the alley-oop variety. Most notably, Connor Vanover re-emerged from the depths of the rotation and scored a career-high 15 points.

“Once I got into the game and started getting into the flow, I was just into the flow of it,” Vanover said. “Do one good play, leads up with another one. So, for me, my confidence is a big thing. Going into the game and knocking a shot or two down and doing some good defense really helps motivate me and I think motivates my teammates too.”

Extending to the macro-view, this was the Bears’ best offensive performance of conference play. Cal eclipsed the 80-point mark for the first time since the loss to UCLA in Westwood and set a conference-high for field goal percentage, hitting 49.2 percent of its shots.

“They emptied the tank today,” Jones said. “I felt like they gave us everything they had. They played together. Looked like a cohesive group. I’m very proud of the effort and fight that they showed today.”

The Bears’ latest loss extends an already embarrassing stretch of basketball for the Bears, one that has now reached historic proportions.

Cal’s losing streak has now hit 10 consecutive games, not only the longest in Jones’ tenure as head coach, but tied for the longest in program history. With a pair of road games against Oregon and Oregon State on the docket, there’s a high probability the futility continues another week.

Justice delos Santos covers men’s basketball. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos.