By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–The effort and competitiveness were present for Cal on Sunday afternoon. But without the made shots and the attention to detail defensively, a landmark sweep of rival Stanford will have to wait for another season.
Stanford kept Cal scoreless for more than two minutes after the game was tied for the last time at 67 with 4:31 remaining, and held on to beat the Bears at Haas Pavilion, 77-73. The loss allowed the Cardinal to avoid a rare sweep of the season series between the Bay rivals, one that has occured just twice in the last 25 seasons.
For first year coach Wyking Jones, the loss was both encouraging and disappointing as he attempts to elevate the young Bears back to conference title contending status.
“For 40 minutes I felt like we gave everything that we had so I’m happy,” Jones said. “It was good to see that and feel that in the building.”
Cal kept Stanford on its heels with its scrambling defense that forced 16 turnovers, along with six blocked shots and six steals. But the extra possessions that their defense produced mattered little when juxtaposed against the Bears’ 37 percent shooting, frequent fouling, and poorly timed scoring droughts. After getting even at 67, the Bears’ Justice Sueing missed a layup, and Marcus Lee and Juwahn Harris-Dyson committed turnovers.
Daejon Davis, who led Stanford with 22 points, fouled out with 2:11 remaining, and the two ensuing, made Don Coleman free throws got the Bears within three. But Cal was already in the process of missing its final five shots from the field, including a head scratching three-point attempt by seldom-used Roman Davis with three seconds remaining and Cal trailing by four. Those late misses allowed Stanford to hang on, a far more palatable result than them blowing a double-digit lead in the final minutes of the conference opener that went to the Bears.
“The ending wasn’t how we wanted but overall I felt we played a much cleaner game,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said. “Our competitive spirit was there.”
With the win, Stanford improved to 8-6 in Pac-12 play, good enough to keep pace with three other conference teams, all in hopes of finishing fourth in the final standings, and earning a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. The Bears fell into the conference cellar with the loss, tied with Washington State at 2-12.
The Bears conclude conference play with home games against Washington and Washington State, before traveling to Arizona to face the Sun Devils and Wildcats on the final weekend.
Don Coleman paced the Bears with 17 points, but missed 13 of his 19 shots from the field. Sueing and Lee added 15 points each, as the Bears enjoyed a rare, stellar day at the free throw line, making 18 of 22. But poor 3-point shooting (3 of 16) dulled any advantages the Bears gathered at the free throw line.
Stanford switched to a zone early in the second half, a rarity for the primarily man-to-man Cardinal. But the zone forced the Bears to share the ball and make smart decisions, neither strengths for the youth-laden Bears. Cal’s shooting dipped to 28 percent after halftime, and the 10 offensive rebounds they gathered in the first 12 minutes of the half amounted to very little on the scoreboard.