As Vince Lombardi said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” Although Stanford’s decisive 83-38 victory Sunday night marked the Bears’ fifth straight loss, all they can do is pick themselves up and march through this tumultuous season.
Here are the key takeaways from Sunday’s game.
The box score may not suggest it, but there are a few positives for the Bears to reflect on. For example, throughout the first three quarters, Cal was outscored by an average of 12 points per quarter. However, in the final period, Cal was only outscored by 9 points, putting up a respectable 15 points against Stanford’s 24. The Bears showed resilience in the last frame, the quarter in which they had the least incentive to do so.
Moreover, considering that Stanford is the top-ranked team in the nation and Cal is so heavily depleted, the fact that the blue and gold did not throw the towel in is a good sign. Head coach Charmin Smith instilling a “never quit” attitude will do wonders in the long run.
Next, Cal held Stanford’s leading scorer Haley Jones to just 8 points on the night, a season low. While Stanford’s role players had excellent nights, the Bears showed that they are capable of locking down an elite scorer, even with a banged-up backcourt.
Good teams are usually adept at getting to the free-throw line, and the Bears were able to draw more fouls than the No. 1 team in the nation.
There was also a pair of standout individual performances. Cal’s leading scorer was center Fatou Samb, who logged 10 points on the night. Samb had only averaged 3.7 points per game up until this point, which shows Cal’s potential depth. Furthermore, Cal’s leading rebounder was freshman forward Ugonne Onyiah, who had another strong showing, almost turning in a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds.
Things to improve on
Turnovers are the No. 1 thing the Bears must improve on if they want to win games, as they had more than double the turnovers Stanford had (33 compared to 15). Having this many more turnovers than the other team can lead to a snowball effect, as fast-break points off turnovers can quickly put a game out of reach.
Of course, Cal did not have its best ballhandlers out on the floor, but this many turnovers is inexcusable. The Bears tend to make a lot of careless passes, which can be reduced regardless of the circumstances. Moreover, Stanford had 22 steals on the night.
Regarding ball movement, Stanford had almost three times the number of assists Cal did (19 compared to seven), which also led to 29 more shot attempts. While the Cardinal took more shots than the Bears, the visiting team was much more efficient due to the easy shots generated by its superb ball movement: Stanford shot 44.4% from the field compared to Cal’s 23.3%.
The blue and gold must also improve its free throw shooting. While it is impressive that the home team attempted 24 shots from the charity stripe, attempts do Cal no good if it can’t capitalize on these opportunities. The Bears shot just 16 of 24 from the line Sunday, clocking in at 66.7%. Cal should aim for a “passing grade” (at least 70% to 75% of its free throws), as winning programs typically have decent free throw shooting.
To put it simply, the Bears played arguably the best team in the nation with a depleted lineup. Sunday night’s result could have happened to any team granted the dubious honor of facing Stanford’s elite squad, so the Cal faithful should not be too disappointed.
Catch Cal at UCLA on Saturday at noon on Pac-12 Networks.