STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Connor Vanover scored a season-high 24 points and made a critical 3-point play with 56.7 seconds remaining, and California held on to beat Stanford 64-59 on Thursday night.
Vanover shot 9 of 12 and had season-highs with five 3-pointers and six blocked shots, helping the Golden Bears (8-22, 3-15 Pac-12) close the regular season with their third straight win following a school-record 16-game losing streak.
Paris Austin added 15 points for Cal. Matt Bradley had 14 points and seven rebounds before fouling out, while Justice Sueing had nine points and 10 rebounds.
KZ Okpala had 21 points and eight rebounds for Stanford (15-15, 8-10). Josh Sharma added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Cal led 45-24 following Vanover’s fifth 3-pointer of the game early in the second half but struggled to put Stanford away despite a strong night from Bradley.
Bradley had 11 points in the second half including a pair of free throws to put the Bears up 58-45. He fouled out 40 seconds later when Stanford made its best run.
The Cardinal made three 3-pointers, two by Cormac Ryan, to cut Cal’s lead to 58-55. After Vanover’s 3-point play, Sharma scored on a dunk and Grant Anticevich and Sueing added free throws.
Stanford missed its first 20 3-point attempts and finished 4 of 28.
Vanover hadn’t made more than two 3s in a game but went 4 of 4 beyond the arc in the first half. The whip-thin 7-foot-3 freshman center scored the Bears’ first 12 points and matched his season high with 18 points before halftime.
Cal went on a 17-0 run and led by 19 midway through the first half. Stanford chipped away at the lead and pulled within 34-24 on Okpala’s soaring one-handed dunk before Bradley banked in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
California: With three straight wins, the Bears are tied with Oregon as the hottest team in the Pac-12. That might not do much in terms of their overall record but it does build some momentum heading into the conference tournament. The 21-point lead was Cal’s largest in any game this season.
Stanford: The Cardinal were missing Daejon Davis (foot) for a second game and struggled to find another consistent scorer to complement Okpala. Stanford’s big run at the end made it close but it wasn’t enough. Now it’s on to the conference tournament.
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California: Despite their late surge, the Bears face an uphill climb in the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. They will play the No. 5 seed, which has yet to be determined, in the first round on Wednesday.
Stanford: The Cardinal will have to wait a few days before learning who it will play in the Pac-12 Tournament’s opening round Wednesday. Stanford is slated to face the No. 7 seed and there is a logjam of teams still jockeying for position.
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