WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Sophomore KZ Okpala had 23 points and Stanford scored 17 unanswered first-half points to take control and beat UNC Wilmington 72-59 on Friday night.
Cormac Ryan added 14 for the Cardinal (2-0), who trailed by eight but held the Seahawks without a basket for the final 7½ minutes before halftime to take a 39-25 lead at the break.
Stanford pushed that margin to 18. UNCW got no closer than eight again.
It was the second straight big game for the 6-foot-9 Okpala, who had a career-best 29 points in the season-opening win against Seattle.
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Devontae Cacok and Jeantal Cylla each scored 14 for the Seahawks (0-2), who were hosting a power-conference opponent for the first time since December 2009. There was a connection that helped schedule this matchup: the teams are coached by former Kansas teammates and North Carolina assistant coaches under Roy Williams in Stanford’s Jerod Haase and UNCW’s C.B. McGrath.
Stanford: The November miles will add up quickly for the Cardinal, who traveled about 2,500 miles across the country for the first of two games in North Carolina. Then, after returning home to host Wofford, Stanford will travel more than 2,700 miles east again to the Bahamas for the three-games-in-three-days Battle 4 Atlantis tournament during the Thanksgiving holiday. Haase will certainly learn a bit about his team’s maturity in handling this opening stretch.
UNCW: The Seahawks are having early season trouble with turnovers. They had 18 turnovers that led to 25 points in Tuesday’s 97-93 overtime loss at Campbell. They struggled again to take care of the basketball against Stanford’s length, including two straight turnovers to open the second half that killed any chance of quick momentum out of the break. UNCW finished with 20 turnovers that Stanford converted into 26 points.
Stanford: The Cardinal will stay on the East Coast until Monday’s visit to No. 8 North Carolina.
UNCW: McGrath gets another Tar Heels reunion Tuesday with a visit from UNC Greensboro and Spartans coach Wes Miller, who played for UNC from 2004-07 during McGrath’s time on Williams’ staff.
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