Maples Pavilion was the backdrop for Cal’s victory in round one. Haas Pavilion was the backdrop for Stanford’s victory in round two. Round three, however, was reserved for T-Mobile Arena.
Under the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, the 12th-seeded Cal men’s basketball team couldn’t wash away a season full of sin, falling to fifth-seeded Stanford, 76-58.
With the loss, the Bears finish the season with a winning percentage of .250, the second-worst mark in program history. The team also finishes with an in-conference winning percentage of .105, the single worst mark since the inception of the Pacific Conference.
Cal’s final loss of the season was a culmination of nearly every season-long shortcoming. The Bears were ice-cold from the field, gave the Cardinal plenty of wide-open looks from deep and parts of their starting core succumbed to foul trouble.
The Bears would shoot 28.2 percent from the field as a collective, their worst field goal percentage as a unit this season.
“I felt like we had looks, we just didn’t knock them down,” said head coach Wyking Jones. “I don’t know if it was so much what they did as we had open looks and didn’t capitalize.”
Freshman Darius McNeill capped off the year with an excellent game overall, posting a team-high 19 points and draining five 3-pointers. That stat line, however, comes with an asterisk, as McNeill was held scoreless in the second half on five shot attempts.
With his first 3-pointer of the game, McNeill surpassed Allen Crabbe’s program freshman-year record of 62. The record, now in sole possession of McNeill, stands at 67.
“I take it as a blessing,” McNeill said. “When they told me I was about to break it, I was trying to accomplish it. I’m just blessed to accomplish that goal.”
Senior big man Kingsley Okoroh closed his career with a bang, recording five blocks to become the third player in program history to eclipse the 200-block plateau. He ends his career with 201 career rejections.
Fellow senior big man Marcus Lee, however, closed out his collegiate career on a whimper, scoring two points on eight shots before fouling out late in the second half.
Freshman Justice Sueing also had a game to forget in his first postseason appearance, finishing with eight points on 3 of 10 shooting.
With Lee and Sueing having a tough night at the office, fellow freshman Juhwan Harris-Dyson took on some of the offensive responsibilities, scoring 11 points. He would foul out as well.
Seniors Reid Travis and Dorian Pickens led the way for Stanford, scoring 19 and 16 points, respectively.
“(Travis) was just more relentless today,” Jones said. “There was times when Kingsley blocked a shot and he just continued to fight.”
McNeill, who scored a combined eight points against Arizona State and Arizona to close out the regular season, single-handedly kept Cal in the ballgame early on as the rest of the offense struggled to find a rhythm.
Despite playing every second of the first half, McNeill summoned up the energy to ball out, the most impressive shot of the bunch being his final trey of the half when he connected from deep with the hand of freshman Daejon Davis in his face.
McNeill couldn’t find that secondary scorer in the first half to alleviate the workload. Aside from the freshman, the rest of the Bears shot 3 of 18 from the field and scored a combined nine points in the first half.
Sueing and junior Don Coleman — two players whom Cal can typically rely on for some type of offense — combined for three points on 1 of 10 shooting.
Much to the tune of McNeill’s performance against Washington, his heroics in the first half didn’t translate to the second. The freshman was held scoreless in the second half on five shots, three of them being 3-pointers.
Harris-Dyson provided much-needed offense to begin the half, scoring seven quick points in the opening minutes, but would not score again after a short-range jumper with 17:10 remaining.
And as McNeill and Harris-Dyson faded, so did the rest of the offense. Cal shot an abysmal 24.4 percent from the field in the second half, a hideous mark even by its standards. Lee was held scoreless until the waning minutes of the ballgame, only to foul out moments later.
Assistant sports editor Christie Aguilar contributed to this story.