BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Matt Bradley has taken so many shots during pivotal times for California that it seemed a perfect set-up for him to do it again.
Naturally, coach Mark Fox opted to get the ball to Paris Austin instead.
Austin made two free throws with 3.2 seconds remaining, and California held on to beat Stanford 52-50 on Sunday.
Austin finished with 15 points, Bradley scored 14 and Kareem South added 13 for the Golden Bears (9-10, 3-3 Pac-12).
“Everybody thought Matt Bradley was going to be the guy,” Fox said. “They’ve got smart coaches and smart players. But we’re in the bonus and Paris had a hot hand. I knew he could draw a foul and we could win at the free throw line. Fortunately it worked out for us.”
Not so much for Stanford, which lost its second straight and fell out of first place in the Pac-12.
“When it’s a rivalry game like this, on the road and it comes down to essentially a free-throw shooting contest at the end, anything can happen,” Cardinal coach Jerod Haase said. “That’s why it didn’t go in our favor. I knew they were going to go downhill. I expected it to be a one-on-one situation. It ended up being a free-throw situation.”
Oscar da Silva had 13 points and seven rebounds for Stanford (15-4, 4-2).
California trailed by 11 with 12 minutes to go, then went on a 17-2 run over the next 6 ½ minutes.
Austin had six points during the run but it was his free-throw shooting at the end that made the biggest difference. His two makes came after he had missed one of two and were not long after Bradley missed a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.
“Coach trusted me to get the ball, flatten out, and make a play.” Austin said. “Thanks to coach for trusting me. I just wanted to make a play, whether it was for myself or my teammates, and it worked.”
Bryce Wills appeared to score at the buzzer but the basket was waved off by an official. After a brief review the call was upheld, allowing California to split the season series with its Northern California rival.
It’s the fifth consecutive season that the Bears and Cardinal have split their two games.
Stanford was coming off an 82-78 overtime loss at USC on Jan. 18 when the Cardinal blew a 17-point halftime lead.
Stanford: This one will sting for many reasons. The Cardinal had a double-digit lead and momentum on its side early in the second half before going cold during California’s big run. With back-to-back losses for the first time this season, coach Haase’s team will be tested in how it respond.
California: The Bears needed a signature win and this was it. Beating their rival, at home in front of a crowd of 9,000, should provide Cal a big boost as the season progresses. It wasn’t all pretty. The Bears shot 1 of 15 coming out of halftime but put it together when they needed it most.
“Growing up Kobe was my Jordan. It was a hard pill to swallow for me.” – Austin on the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant earlier Sunday.
Stanford held a 30-18 advantage in the paint despite only having a slim rebounding edge (33-32). … Bradley has scored in double-digits in all but one of California’s 19 games this season. … The Bears scored exactly 52 points in each of the two games against the Cardinal. … California has won three straight at home.
Stanford: Hosts Oregon State on Thursday at Maples Pavilion.
California: Plays No. 12 Oregon at Haas Pavilion on Thursday.
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