In the first half Wednesday night, Stanford did something No. 1 Arizona couldn’t do against Cal: The Cardinal were efficient from behind the 3-point line, got to the free-throw line and pulled away from the Bears early in the contest.
When Stanford’s Chasson Randle knocked down a three with 6:32 remaining in the half, the Cal men’s basketball team trailed by 18 points.
And even as the Bears cut the Cardinal’s lead to single digits just before halftime, the early deficit was too much for Cal to overcome. Led by three players with more than15 points, including 22 from senior forward Dwight Powell, Stanford held the lead for the rest of the night, en route to an 80-69 victory.
The Cardinal (15-7, 6-4 Pac-12) handed Cal (15-8, 6-4) its fourth loss in five games and made the Bears’ win Saturday look like an aberration.
“We didn’t do a very good job really of defending, and we were not very sharp offensively,” said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. “They’re very physical, and we didn’t handle that very well. As a result we got ourselves in a huge hole, and we started playing a little more aggressively, and some things happened, but we couldn’t sustain it.”
The Bears got off to the early start they had to be hoping for. The near-capacity crowd was buzzing, highlights of Saturday’s upset victory were displayed on the jumbotron before the game, and Justin Cobbs, who hit the jumper to beat the buzzer against the Wildcats, received the largest ovation from the crowd during introductions.
And just a minute-and-a-half into the contest, Cal had a two-point lead, on back-to-back hook shots by David Kravish. The junior forward scored eight of the team’s first 12 points.
That was the closest the Bears would get to a win all night, as they trailed for the game’s final 38 minutes.
“We just got to play better,” said sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace. “People that are capable of making plays got to make plays.”
Cobbs, named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday for his 20 points, five assists on average against the Arizona schools, led Cal with 24 total points.
Right before the end of the first half, Cobbs brought the Bears within six points after nailing two 3-pointers in the half’s final minute. The second, which just beat the buzzer, came off a pump-fake by Cal’s Ricky Kreklow from the corner, who found Cobbs wide open. After hitting it, the crowd erupted, and the senior pointed up to the sky.
But Cobbs and his teammates lost their touch to start the second half. The guard missed two shots early, and Stanford started to pull away.
“We got three great looks coming out of the locker room, better shots than we probably got the whole game, start of the second half, didn’t make any of them,” Montgomery said. “We made some poor decisions mentally, in that stretch, rather than be patient, and we couldn’t keep them off the foul line.”
The Cardinal dominated the Bears from the free-throw line. Stanford finished the night with 28 made foul shots, seven more than Cal attempted. In comparison, the Wildcats went six of eight from the line Saturday.
The loss, which was just the second this season for the Bears at Haas Pavilion, moved Cal to the middle of the conference.
“With eight games left, our work is cut out for us, we’re going to have to look at each game as being really, really important for us,” Montgomery said. “I mean I thought Stanford deserved to win. I thought they played well.”
Contact Stephen Hobbs at [email protected].