By Morris Phillips
STANFORD, CA–Determined to avoid a bad loss, Stanford got an ugly win.
The Golden Bears got what was left–and not what they were looking for–a seventh, consecutive loss.
That’s what you get on a rare Tuesday in the Pac-12: succinct conclusions, ragged hoops and gutty performances. Throw in Cal’s signature deliberate pace, and this one was hardly memorable, but it was hard fought. The compressed schedule that has Cal (2-9, 9-13) playing five times in 10 days, along with Tuesday’s physical play clearly impacted them in a second half that was controlled by the hosts.
“I do think that we wore down a little bit in the second half,” coach Mark Fox said. “Certainly we missed Andre on the offensive end, but defensively we gave ourselves a chance.”
Powered by a 9-0 run early, Cal led for much of the first half. But the Cardinal’s defense and rebounding eventually became the story. Cal trailed by just one point at the break despite shooting 32 percent from the floor. Better shooting in the second half (38 percent) didn’t propel the Bears, instead they fell victim to Stanford’s insistence on getting the ball to the rim. Cal’s attempts to rally failed as they missed eight of nine 3-point attempts after halftime.
“We talked a lot about pace during halftime and just getting the ball moving, getting downhill off screens,” Stanford’s James Keefe said when asked what changed after the break. “But, I think coach gave us a good plan and we got it going from there. So, I guess you could say stagnant.”
Jaden Delaire and freshman Harrison Ingram led Stanford with 12 points a piece. Spencer Jones and Michael O’Connell each had nine points, and fifth starter Keefe best “embraced the grind” as described by coach Jerod Haase. Keefe finished with eight points and 11 rebounds, and a bunch of hustle plays in an uneven first half that could have saw the Cardinal fall into a hole.
Andre Kelly was absent for the Bears, as a result of his leg injury suffered on Saturday at USC. Lars Thiemann responded with the lengthiest and most impressive outing of his career with 11 points, six rebounds in 32 minutes.
“Lars really did an admirable job,” Fox said. “I was surprised he could go 30 minutes. He’s been our leading scorer and rebounder in practice all year. He just needs confidence to let the game slow down, and that’ll help him get better.”
Jordan Shepherd led Cal with 15 points, but missed 12 of his 17 shots from the floor. Grant Anticevich was reinstated to the starting lineup, but his seven points, seven rebounds weren’t impactful enough, especially in Kelly’s absence.
Washington visits Cal on Thursday, the Bears next opportunity to end a losing streak that has them currently 10th in the conference race ahead of one-win clubs, Oregon State and Utah.