Last Sunday’s game was a good old-fashioned turf war, and the 75-70 result in
favor of the home team gave Stanford 20 regular season wins and a real shot at
an NIT bid at the very worst. With such a memorable game played just four days
ago, this one was sure to be another nail-biter.
“What do you think?” I
asked Drew Shiller as I sat down next to him in the cordoned-off media
hospitality area in Staples.
“I have no idea.” Neither did Scott Reiss.
Nor I (by the way, what the hell was I doing sitting among that kind of
I was just happy Stanford avoided a horrid-RPI loss to Arizona State the night before, but low-major patsies weren’t holding serve across the
country. The newest team to make me wish ill will on its program? The
UT-Arlington Mavericks, who damn near went undefeated in the regular season
Southland slate, but got their mood ruined by McNeese State by a score of 92-72.
This damn NIT bubble is shrinking by the minute! With Savannah State already out
of the MEAC tourney, perhaps a Bethune-Cookman Wildcats run through the
eastern-most HBCU conference tourney could give the Cardinal a slight RPI
None of this matters, of course, if Stanford just takes care of
business and knocks off Cal for a second consecutive time. All this posturing
can be eliminated with another top-40 RPI victory and forget the NIT, the Big
Dance would still be in the picture.
Excuse the opening tip, but the game
got off to a rather nice start for the Farm Boys. After the Cobbs dunk, the Card
showed they were still hot from the arc, even if Andrew Zimmermann needed a
little help from a friendly bounce off the iron. Chasson Randle didn’t need any
generous rolls, coming off a curl cut and swishing over Justin Cobbs in one fell
swoop to give Stanny a 6-4 advantage.
I didn’t think I would find myself
saying this, but Stanford just looked like the better team in the first half.
The Farm Boys had more purpose in their movement, more poise to their game. Cal
was turning the ball over left and right - whether it was a Harper Kamp pass
that got deflected towards the rim or one of many Jorge’s first period miscues;
throwing a post-entry pass as if it were a Stephen Strasburg fastball to an
expecting Kamp on the low block.
But at the under-16 timeout, an ominous
sign appeared in the most unexpecting way. Our host for the evening Armon told
everyone to get their programs out and see if a 76 sticker was there. The winner
would get some BS - I don’t remember what. Anyways, a Cardinal fan happened to
have the sticker in her program guide...just like a Sun Devil fan did last night
during the Stanford-Arizona State game.
And you know what happened to the
Still, the signs of defeat would have to wait. While Harper Kamp
was indeed making a living in the paint, the Cardinal seemed to have an answer
for every make by 22 white. On one occasion, it was Aaron Bright who penetrated
into the key, drawing defenders - found my man! ‘Twas Josh Owens from the left
baseline for the deuce (Bright has gotten a lot better as the season has worn on
at looking for others when penetrating, though the same might not be said about
the latter stages of this game).
But mostly, it was Andrew Zimmermann. Who?!
Not Mike Jones; nah, the lumberjack. More than ever, Z was looking to take his
man - usually Kravish - off the dribble from the top of the key. And it worked;
driving his way to the left block, excuse-me-sir-hesitation to draw the contact
and knock down the bunny for an and-1. After Z split a pair after Crabbe
inadvertently kicked him in the face to pick up his second personal foul at the
6:33 mark, Andrew had nine freaking points!
The lead would stay between
three and seven for the rest of the half. Stanford had its opportunities to pull
away even further, but couldn’t convert offensively. The same could be said for
Cal - the Golden Bears had their chances to slice into the Stanford edge even
further, but turnovers doomed them all half long. Try 14 through 20
It came down to the last possession of the first half, after the
Card had gotten a much-needed to stop to ensure at the very least a five-point
advantage. And it looked like that would be all the edge Stanford would have
going into the break as Josh Huestis dribbled himself into a corner, got
doubled, picked it up, but smartly called a TO. Then Bright almost had a TO out
of the TO. But somehow, someway, Bright kept control of the rock, almost ran
into a teammate and lofted one up right before the buzzer...gets the
Stanford was shooting 37 percent and turned it over eight times in
the first half, yet the Farm Boys were the ones celebrating a touchdown edge
over their cross-Bay rivals. Despite those stats, Stanford was clearly the
better team on the floor in the first half. It was really the first time in
quite a while where I looked at a Stanford-Cal game and say “hey, Stanford is
playing definitively better basketball; the Cardinal are the better team”. It
sort of had those Stanford over Arizona State victories from 2009 and 2010 feel
to ‘em. Cal was the team with the better record, but Stanford was just giving a
more focused effort.
Though you could look at it the other way, as Mike Montgomery would later say he did - the Golden Bears had turned it over 14
times, Jorge was playing like crap again, Kamp had three giveaways himself! And
despite all that, it was just a seven-point deficit for Cal.
the first half was just the calm before the storm, as the Golden Bears started
the second period as if they were shot out of a cannon. The first play from
scrimmage was run for the Pac-12 Player of the Year: Jorge curling to the right
wing, receives the pass...I didn’t even have to watch it to know that S.O.B. was
going down the drain. Then Jorge attacked and got to the line - nailed both.
Jorge’s trip to the charity stripe was just the beginning of a long
parade of fouls and freebies. Cal clearly took Harper Kamp’s Sunday postgame
presser to heart in this final 20. It was as if the Golden Bears realized
“shoooooot, if we don’t come out this second half and play some damn basketball,
we might be dancing our way to the Big Apple instead of the Big Easy!” After
Owens went with his patented left shoulder move on Harper Kamp, he quickly
fouled Cobbs on the next possession down, and that was his third with 19 minutes
to play. Maybe you trust your senior there to not pick up another foul, but
Dawkins wasn’t willing to chance it quite yet. His replacement, Jack Trotter,
picked up a foul the next time down. Three team fouls in 97 seconds.
was attacking, that was for sure, and Stanford didn’t know how to respond
defensively. By the time Crabbe took a few steps back to make it rain, Cal had
completely erased the halftime deficit and gave the Cardinal five more to
ponder. The Golden Bear fans, clearly outnumbering those in cardinal red, rose
and hollered in unison. Dawkins had no choice but to call timeout.
woke the hell up. You knew Stanford wouldn’t be able to hold Cal to 23 points
for another half, but 15 points in the first four minutes of the second half? A
15-3 run, just like 2011-12 Stanford men’s basketball at its
Stanford clearly needed some form offensively to get back in this
one, so the Cardinal decided to call 5-SURE for all its security needs, and the
Rock Island Rookie quickly responded by beating the Cal defense into the lane
and finishing for the layup.
Though the Cardinal had started to get its
groove back offensively, the Bears held on to theirs, and the roles were
reversed. With the Cardinal now trying to play catch-up, Oski always had an
answer for each bucket. Zimmermann hit another three to cut it to two; Jorge
answered with an equal amount. Bright knocked down a right-wing trey in front of
his bench, swaggerly stared at Gutierrez’s back; Jorge must have felt the stare
as he wasn’t to be outdone.
Regardless, the Farm Boys had their legs
back underneath ‘em, and all it took was one stop to really the pressure on
Cal wasn’t backing down, not in the slightest. Kamp was
abusing Stanford down low, moving well without the ball to find the soft spot in
the key. When Stanford crawled to within one, he showed off some vision as well,
executing the high-low game to perfection with a bounce pass to Kravish on the
left block for another uncontested layup.
Stanford would eventually break
through and tie this thing up on a pair of Chasson Randle free throws after
boxing Cobbs out well and forcing Justin to foul him. Where Stanford once had
eight team fouls to Cal’s one, the refs made sure they evened this thing up, in
true Pac-12 official fashion (though I must say, there wasn’t a lot to argue
about at this juncture). But Cal pushed back out in front, then Stanford cut it
to one, then Cal upped it to two on a free throw, and back and forth we
Bright was tired of this whole Cal holding on to the lead mess and
thought it was in his team’s best interest to try to move out in front by
popping one from the left wing, no- THERE’S ZIMMERMANN WITH THE PUTBACK, out of
nowhere! We’re tied again! Kravish hits two free throws, but it’s Zimmermann to
the rescue AGAIN! This mo’fo has 22 points! Senior urgency was in full
Sixty two all and five minutes to go. This game was more than
living up to the hype. Cal had weathered poor decision making in the first half;
Stanford had weather the Cal blitzkrieg in the second. This was assured to be
decided on the final play of the game.
And then it wasn’t. It didn’t take
Allen Crabbe long to put his team back on top, and that’s where it all fell down
like Kanye’s second single off “College Dropout”. Powell stared down his
defender on the other end, eager to tie things back up, shot from the top of the
key - just a tad long! If only Powell had followed his shot immediately (long
shot, long rebound!), he might have been able to grab his own board because no
man in white put a body on him. Powell realized he could get it, but it was too
late; Jorge beat him to the punch and was off to the races, laying it in easily
as Bright chose not to foul (good decision; no way Jorge would have missed a
layup there had he been slapped in the arm - just way too much momentum). The
lead grew to six after Crabbe made a couple of free throws. Then Jarrett Mann,
feeling his time of meaningful basketball could be coming to an end, decided to
be the hero - ball gets kicked out to him on the right baseline, goes up for the
Whoopsies. Instead, the lead ballooned to nine, Arlington was
getting murdered and I thought for sure Stanford was headed to the
“Come on, Kev, don’t give up on us yet, bro!” Zimmermann said, still
fighting hard on defense and - you guessed it- took a charge on Harper Kamp. Z
told me a week ago there were two times he had gotten injured on charges drawn,
it looked like that could have been No. 3 there for a minute.
what Z said!” Randle hollered in support as he mean-mugged a three in from 23
feet out. “I’m puttin’ this team on my back, tho!”
Sure did for a moment
there, taking Crabbe’s missed layup down the court all by his lonesome,
tunnelvision set to a thousand, scored on a drive to cut it to
There was still plenty of time, too. Seventy-eight seconds, all
that was needed was a stop, and Stanford could really put the pressure on. Cal
wasn’t in a rush, bled the clock out before the red numbers above the backboard
forced the Bears’ hand. Cal got a great look- sure-handed Kamp wide open from
five feet on the left baseline, but he misses! Stanford gets the
But as the opening credits to the new TV show “Alcatraz” say,
only that’s not what happened. Brown must have been too physical with Kravish
down low - I didn’t see it happen, nor did I see a replay, so I can’t help you
out there. All I know is it killed Stanford’s momentum, Kravish hit both, and
once Stanford came up empty with a couple of missed threes by Robert Thurman and
Richard Solomon - I mean the other 34 and three, in red - Stanford was toast;
77-71 your final tally.
Cal had control of this one for so long in the
second half, but Stanford was always right behind ‘em until the final few
possessions. Had I remembered the 76 sticker skit, though, I wouldn’t have
gotten my hopes up.
Let’s go Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State, et
al. Those teams might be Stanford’s only shot at a real postseason tournament.
In my estimation, it’s about 50-50. I’ll look a little more in-depth at the
field and report back.
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