When the opportunity to beat your rivals comes knocking at your door, you must capitalize on it. With a chance to sweep the Cardinal for the first time since 2010 and collect the first Cal win in Palo Alto under head coach Mark Fox, the Bears simply could not rise to the challenge.
The game saw a fast start as both teams scored in the first minute and a half. Stanford held a 12-11 lead seven minutes in, but then a drought hit both sides: No points were scored on either side for the next six and a half minutes until Lars Thiemann finally knocked down a jumper. Stanford responded swiftly, and Cal could not take the punch, allowing the Cardinal to go on a 12-0 run over the next 3 minutes. Stanford ended the half strongly without too much resistance from the blue and gold, and the score at halftime was 31-20 in the Cardinal’s favor.
The Bears had made just two field goals in the final 13 minutes of the half, and it was clear why. The offense was simply stagnant; the Bears kept going to a high pick-and-roll, but could not take advantage of Stanford’s switching. With the shot clock winding down, the Bears would try to get it inside to a big, but Stanford’s focus on denying the entry pass led to multiple Cal possessions ending with hastily hoisted threes or a shot clock violation. Without the Bears’ shot-making magic from the first game, the outlook was bleak.
To make matters worse, the defense — especially in the interior — was porous on Cal’s end. 20 of Stanford’s 31 first-half points came in the paint, off of simple back cuts, post-ups and offensive rebounds. The attention being drawn to the inside was then creating open looks for Stanford’s shooters. Ultimately, Cal was being outmatched in every facet of the game.
Coach Fox described their offensive woes in the postgame presser as a product of their “defensive frustrations (carrying) over to the offensive end.”
Heading into the second half, the halftime talk must not have been enough to make a difference, as Stanford drained two triples and got a putback dunk in the first four minutes. The offense was still struggling to create anything, as the two scores by Thiemann in the same time frame were merely products of scrambled offense when the shot clock was running out.
Harrison Ingram’s poster dunk on Cal’s ND Okafor off an offensive rebound summed the game up for the Bears. With the Cal offense lacking any offensive generation and the Cal defense being unable to guard the inside and the outside, the writing was on the wall. Stanford pulled further and further away and finished off an excruciating game by a score of 75-46, tied for the Bears’ worst loss of the season.
When asked about Cal’s struggles on the road this season (0-8 away from home), Coach Fox gave an extremely blunt answer.
“We haven’t been a very good road team because we haven’t been very good. You have to get good first. You have to be able to rely on your defense, and this team has not been able to do that.”
The Bears will attempt to put this disastrous result behind them and look ahead to their Thursday game, where they head to Boulder to take on Colorado. As the other Pac-12 team that lost to the blue and gold, the Buffaloes will be licking their chops in anticipation of the runback against the Bears. After their performance, or rather lack thereof, against Stanford, the Bears will have to do a complete 180 to contend with Colorado once again.