Cal vs. Stanford. One of the most historic college rivalries of all time, with war being waged in the classroom, on the gridiron and most recently, on the hardwood. Behind an astounding 59% shooting from the field and 73% from three, the Bears took the first matchup this season in a resounding win to defend Haas Pavilion. Now, the stage is set for the blue and gold to take Palo Alto by storm and sweep the Cardinal out of its own home turf.
The past couple of weeks have been a tale of two opposite stories for Cal and Stanford. Following their resounding victory over the Cardinal on Jan. 6, the Bears dropped the next four games against the two Washington teams and the two Oregon teams. The losses against the Cougars, Ducks and Beavers were all by 15 or more, and the Washington game was a meltdown of epic proportions that saw the dissolution of a double-digit blue and gold lead in the last few minutes of regulation, leading to an overtime loss.
On the other hand, while Stanford basketball did also lose to Washington and Washington State, it have now won its last three games heading into Friday, including emphatic victories over both Oregon State and Oregon. With all the momentum in Stanford’s favor, the Bears will have to settle down and look to get back to what worked in their first matchup against the Cardinal.
The biggest highlight of the first game was the Bears’ unbelievable shooting, especially from long range. The barrage of triples was led by graduate guard DeJuan Clayton, who dropped six threes en route to 26 points. Sam Alajiki with five and Kuany Kuany with three tied the school record of 16 threes on 73% from behind the arc. To post even half of this percentage Friday would be huge compared to the blue and gold’s season average.
Obviously, that premier level of shooting is unsustainable, but another positive aspect from that game, ball movement, might be. Cal’s 21 assists were the most it has had in a game since 2019, and although they likely ensued from off-the-charts shotmaking, the way in which the Bears found the open man to set up such shots is something they could and should replicate in order to complete the sweep.
Clayton will remain a big part of the game plan — provided he is fit to play. Clayton missed the Oregon State game Sunday because of migraines, and there has yet to be any further information regarding his status beyond head coach Mark Fox’s post-game proclamation, declaring Clayton day-to-day. Clayton has been a centerpiece of the Cal offense in his six games played, and his return is crucial for the blue and gold.
If Clayton does return, the Bears would finally trot him out alongside current leading scorer Devin Askew. Askew returned Sunday from a foot injury that kept him out for five games, and although his 2-12 shooting leaves a lot to be desired, coach Fox depends on him to handle the rock. With that backcourt, the offense as a whole could fire on all cylinders.
Other players needing to show up for the Bears in order to capture the big win include Sam Alajiki, also looking to make a return after missing Sunday’s game, Kuany Kuany and freshman Grant Newell, who has been extremely solid as of late. Getting as many players healthy and ready to go for Friday is of the utmost importance if Cal is to steal the victory, as the team-oriented play was what propelled the win three weeks ago.
The only time since the turn of the century that Cal swept Stanford in basketball was the 2010 season. The Bears will look to break out the brooms once more in Palo Alto on Friday. Here’s to making history.