STANFORD, Calif. — Too little, too late.
Guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs combined for 23 of the Cal men’s basketball team’s 30 second-half points on Saturday afternoon. Trouble was, the scoring surge did not make up for their shooting woes in the first half.
As a result, Stanford built an eight-point halftime margin and sustained the lead to defeat the Bears, 69-59.
“If you really want to take a guy out of the game, you can,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “How do you make them pay for loading up on Allen? We got to get production in the paint.”
Montgomery had indeed been looking for a third option on offense all season long. He found one in the first half.
David Kravish, the sophomore forward who came in averaging 7.6 points per game, scored 12 of his 14 points in the opening period, mixing baby hooks and midrange jumpers.
“When they’re hugging Allen and Justin, it makes it easier for me to go one-on-one,” Kravish said.
If Crabbe and Cobbs could have mustered more than one total field goal in the first half, maybe the Bears (10-7, 2-3 in the Pac-12) could have left Maples Pavilion with a win.
To say that Cal’s tandem of junior guards was cold in the first half would be an understatement. Cobbs missed all seven of his shot attempts in the period while Crabbe, the conference’s leading scorer at 20.1 points per game, needed nearly 14 minutes to score his first and only basket of the half.
“Just like every other team,” Crabbe said, “they’re gonna find ways to get me frustrated. It’s nothing new. They did a good job in the first half.”
Consequently, Cal never seemed comfortable on offense and never had any rhythm for a sustained period of time after an early 8-0 run. Stanford (11-7, 2-3) chipped away and seized the game behind the shooting prowess of John Gage. Cal somehow continued to lose sight of 6-foot-10 Gage, who sank three of his four treys in the half.
“It was a tremendous lift,” said Stanford forward Dwight Powell. “He really gets us going. We just feed off his energy.”
The Bears also struggled to contain guard Chasson Randle, who must like playing against Cal. The sophomore guard, who had 17 and 19 points, respectively, in the teams’ prior two matchups, tallied 15 more on Saturday.
What was a back-and-forth contest started to slip away for the Bears in the final six minutes of the first half. Cal scored just two baskets in that time period as the squad watched its once-six-point lead evaporate into a 37-29 halftime deficit.
Crabbe scored buckets on consecutive fastbreaks to narrow Stanford’s lead to 39-35 early in the second half, but he struggled in the half court. He hit his only 3-pointer of the contest with 1:33 left in the game.
Cobbs scored his first basket four and a half minutes into the period and tried to put the team on his back. He hit consecutive jumpers with nine minutes remaining but finished 4-for-15 from the field.
While both teams secured the ball and were nearly even in the rebounds and field goal percentage categories, the Cardinal took more than twice as many free throws as the Bears and shot 80.6 percent (25-of-31).
“It’s hard to win (with that disparity),” Montgomery said. “I don’t think Stanford is particularly physical. It’s obvious we’re not very physical. I’m going to have to go back and review what a foul is and what a foul isn’t. You got to play through that.”
Powell was 9-for-9 from the line, leading to an impressive 17 total points to lead all scorers despite an unimpressive 4-for-12 clip from the field. With six minutes left, he was fouled on a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired. His three free throws gave Stanford a 57-47 lead, and Cal would never get more than a basket closer.
Jonathan Kuperberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]