Bears remain on the NCAA bubble after a frustrating night at Stanford 73-68

February 18, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

calbears.com photo: Cal Bears Jabari Bird who scored seven three pointers was all for not in Cal’s loss at Maple Pavilion to the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night

By Morris Phillips

With the rain and traffic subsiding on a quieter than normal Friday night, the ride back to Berkeley was likely far quicker than the trip to Stanford for the Cal Bears.

That was the good news: the Bears needed to find a familiar drawing board in the worse way, as well as get out of Maples Pavilion as quickly as possible.

With their NCAA prospects as tenuous as any of the 351 teams across the Division I landscape, the Cal Bears couldn’t have found a less advantageous time for a clunker on a national TV, with all 20 turnovers there for all to see.

Those tuned in also saw the curious foul disparity, the healthy, early lead and how quickly it dissipated, as well as the team’s overall lack of energy.  Not exactly what you would want the NCAA tournament committee to see three weeks before they determine your postseason fate.

“It concerns me because we lost the game, and we had 20 turnovers and we didn’t play well,” coach Cuonzo Martin said. “You can’t have 20 turnovers, especially against a team that’s not pressing you.”

Twelve of those 20 hiccups came in the first half when the Bears came out on fire, then inexplicably doused themselves with flame retardant. After building a quick 19-7 lead, the Bears retreated, and found themselves trailing at halftime, 38-34.

As an unintended insult, the Cardinal took credit for taking over the game when it was obvious to Martin and the vast majority of the television audience that the Bears poisioned themselves, likely by ingesting silly medicine during an early, media timeout.

“Once we started getting stops we were able to get out in transition and our offense came from there,” said Stanford’s Dorian Pickens, who led all scorers with 25 points. “Our defense was phenomenal in the second half, especially late.”

“I really believe the turnovers and steals are a byproduct of great energy,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said.

Despite Haase and Pickens beliefs, the Bears threw balls away, fumbled others, even slipped and fell a couple of times.   When those miscues turned into points for Stanford, Cal’s early advantage disappeared.  Then when Ivan Rabb picked up his second foul with 8:57 remaining before halftime, Martin sat his star.  At that point, the Cardinal took off, making eight consecutive shots at one point in a 23-12 run.

The Cardinal would go on to enjoy a huge disparity at the foul line, with 40 free throw attempts to Cal’s 10.  Cal held small advantages on the glass and in field goal percentage, but that was nothing when measured against Stanford’s parade to the foul stripe.

The Bears (18-8, 9-5) have four scheduled games left starting with No. 7 Oregon up first at Haas Pavilion on Thursday.  Winning three of those four along with a win in the Pac-12 quarterfinals would assuredly get Cal an NCAA bid, but just beating the highly-ranked Ducks might also accomplish the trick.  What Cal can’t afford is to accomplish neither, losing to the Ducks as well as one other opponent.  That would drop them into uncertain waters with other bubble teams like Indiana, Wake Forest, and Minnesota.

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