Cardboard cutouts painstakingly dressed in individual T-shirts certainly look nice but are no replacement for the 9,000 fans that packed Haas Pavilion the last time Cal men’s basketball hosted Stanford. Despite a valiant effort against their archrival, the Bears were unable to repeat last year’s home victory and lost 70-55 to the Cardinal.
“Stanford in the first half — their offense, especially on the interior — was really effective. I was extremely disappointed in our defense, but I don’t want to take anything away from Stanford’s team,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox. “We had a very poor ending to the half, with some turnovers that led to some baskets on the other end, and you just can’t do that against a good team.”
As expected, star senior Oscar da Silva made his presence known early in the game as he scored Stanford’s first two baskets to give the Cardinal an early lead. The Bears’ defense, however, stepped up and slowed the game down until Jaiden Delaire broke the stalemate with a three. Fortunately for Cal, star junior Matt Bradley was able to fire back with a shot of his own from beyond the arc.
The Bears’ defense was able to prevent anyone not named da Silva or Delaire from scoring for nearly eight minutes. A Bradley steal that turned into a Ryan Betley three tied it for Cal early at 11-11. Bradley, who was having a stellar game to that point, gave the blue and gold their first lead of the game with a deep three shortly after.
Eventually, a few poorly timed turnovers for the Bears gave the Cardinal an opportunity to build a lead that, despite Cal’s best efforts offensively, carried into halftime when it led 42-29. The last three minutes of the first half were especially rough for the blue and gold and included an 8-0 Cardinal run, four turnovers and a technical foul on D.J. Thorpe to top it all off.
“The end of the half really hurt us. We have to make better decisions with the ball. We have to eliminate some of these turnovers that lead to baskets at the other end,” Fox said. “We still have a talent deficiency, and we have to accept that and play a certain way — and that’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Despite only making two three-pointers in the first half, Stanford grew a 13-point lead by shooting 61% from the field and having 13 points off of turnovers — more than double that of Cal. Heading into the locker room, da Silva led his team in points, rebounds and assists.
“For him [Da Silva] to be playing as confidently and to be leading his team as he has is impressive. He’s been the best player in the league, and tonight, he was exactly that,” Fox said. “We just had no answer for him.”
Despite the poor finish to the first period, the Bears came out swinging and were able to cut the Cardinal lead to three within six minutes. Then, Cal committed three straight turnovers, which let the pressure off of Stanford as the Cardinal cruised to a 55-43 lead with a 9-0 run.
“Stanford did a good job defending us,” said Andre Kelly. “We’ve just got to run our sets a little bit harder and play with a little more pace, and I think we’ll be good.”
The Bears were never able to recover as foul trouble piled up for Bradley and Kelly, and they eventually fell to the Cardinal. Bradley finished the game with 24 points on 50% shooting, including a five-for-seven performance from deep, while Kelly ended up with 15 points and seven rebounds, but the rest of the team only shot 22.6% from the field and one-for-15 from beyond the arc.
“We have to get some more guys that can finish some plays,” Fox said. “It can’t be a two-man show. We’ve got to get three or four guys scoring and get some consistency.”
Cal will get another shot at Stanford this Sunday when the Bears travel to Palo Alto, and they will certainly have their work cut out for them in the next few days.