As the lights dimmed on the near-full house at Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, blue and yellow dots slowly illuminated the stands.
The effect might have just come from small plastic filters placed over thousands of cell phone lights, but the shimmering view underscored a sort of magic that the Cal men’s basketball team seems to enjoy every time they play in Berkeley. Coming away with a dominant 76-61 win against Bay Area Rival Stanford (11-10, 4-6 Pac-12), the Bears (15-8, 5-5 Pac-12) remain unbeaten at home with a 14-0 record.
But despite Cal’s dominance Saturday afternoon, the first minutes of the contest were claimed by the Cardinal. Stanford opened up the scoring with two treys, first from center Grant Verhoeven and then from forward Marcus Sheffield after dominant play on the offensive boards gave the Cardinal plenty of chances on which to capitalize.
But unfortunately for Stanford, the 6-0 lead would be the largest it would enjoy for the remainder of the game. The Bears clamped down on defense, more successfully tracking the Cardinal’s fast-paced ball movement and off ball screens to force bad shots and bring the score neck and neck just under midway through the half. By the under 12 timeout, the Bears had kept their opponents to 4-14 shooting, enjoying a slight 11-10 lead despite getting off just six shots of their own.
Things only seemed to worsen for the visiting squad as the half progressed. A pair of threes from guard Jabari Bird and a free throw from center Kameron Rooks capped off a 9-0 run for Cal that brought the score to 18-10. And while the Cardinal showed a bit of a spark with a pair of layups to cut the Bears’ lead to 18-14, Cal would run away on another 6-0 streak just minutes later off aggressive rebounding and a scrappy defensive effort.
After Rooks closed out the half with the put away after a missed three by guard Jordan Mathews, Cal led by a dominant 41-25 margin, keeping Stanford to 33.3 percent shooting and all but silencing leading scorer Rosco Allen, who went 0-4 in the first frame. Meanwhile, Rooks had registered seven first-half points on the way to a career-first double-double.
“I was playing as hard as I can, doing what I had to do on defense. … I knew the offense would come to me,” Rooks said.
The Bears didn’t look back in the second half. Sinking three treys from Mathews and Bird early in the second frame, along with impressive play from forward Ivan Rabb, Cal continued to build its lead. With 12 minutes and five seconds left to play, the Bears led by a 26-point margin.
Though Rosco Allen would provide the Cardinal with all of his 16 points in the second half, it wouldn’t be enough to pull Stanford within striking range of the Bears. Forward Jaylen Brown registered 10 second-half points of his own, and despite continuing to struggle with turnovers — the Bears registered 16 over the course of the contest — Cal easily cruised to a 76-61 win with its bench on the court.
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].