Cal men’s basketball eyeing series sweep over Stanford, star freshman

Jenna Wong/File

Redemption. Payback. Retribution. There are many ways to say it, and when Stanford rolls into Haas Pavilion on Sunday after the Cal men’s basketball team snatched victory from the clutches of defeat at Maples Pavilion a little less than two months ago, the Cardinal will be on a mission to erase a sour loss with the sweet, sweet delicacy that is revenge.

Since the Bears kicked off Pac-12 play by storming back from a 17-point deficit in enemy territory to hand their rival a loss, both squads have veered in different directions.

Cal found itself in the midst of a historically bad skid after the electrifying victory, dropping its next nine games by an average margin of 16.6 points.

The Bears managed to break the streak before the skid extended to double digits, but they enter the second rendition of this rivalry match at 2-11 in conference play, good for a winning percentage of .154.

The last time Cal had a sub-.200 conference winning percentage was almost 40 seasons ago — the 1979-80 team finished 3-15.

Stanford, however, rattled off a five-game winning streak after the loss, kicking off the string of victories with a pair of dramatic wins over UCLA and USC. The former victory was decided in double overtime, the latter by a game-winning shot at the buzzer by freshman Daejon Davis from beyond the half court line.

That shot by Davis has been the epitome of the success that the freshman has enjoyed since the beginning of conference play.

While the young point guard balled out during nonconference play and was one of the conference’s best playmakers, he was consistently reckless with the basketball, averaging 5.3 giveaways before facing Pac-12 competition. Davis’ turnover-prone ways peaked when he gave the ball up 11 times against Portland State and its suffocating full court press.

Against conference opponents, Davis has significantly reduced his giveaways, only averaging 3.1 turnovers per contest in conference play. It’s not the prettiest total in the world, but a step in the right direction.

Davis hasn’t just cut his turnovers, but he’s upped his production on both ends of the floor as well.

On the offensive end of the floor, Davis has upped his scoring and assist totals, averaging 12.0 points and 5.3 assists per game in Pac-12 play, as opposed to 9.0 points and 4.1 assists in nonconference play.

The freshman has also been adept at bringing hell on Earth for opposing guards, picking the pockets of Pac-12 opponents at a rate of 1.8 steals per game.

Of all the Cardinal ready for revenge in this sequel, Davis is among the hungriest. In the loss to Cal, Davis was uncharacteristically quiet on the offensive end of the floor, finishing the night with only three points and three assists on one attempted shot and no free throws.

The freshman has especially been on a tear on both ends of the floor, averaging 14.0 points, 6.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game in his last five games.

If Davis is looking to erase the memories from that first matchup, then he’s coming into Berkeley having pushed all the right buttons over the last several weeks.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510