KenPom.com gives Stanford a 35 percent chance of winning tonight, with a 68-64 projected score. A big reason why is defense: California's rates second in the conference to KenPom (source of all of our efficiency rankings), the Cardinal's is just seventh. Maybe Mike Montgomery was right and we do play soft.
Stanford is in their black jerseys, which have worked so well for us in other road games this year. (Sarcasm.) Still, they look great, especially for night games.
With UCLA en route to Couging it at Wazzu, Cal is one step closer to a share of the Pac-12 title. The Bears will need a win tonight and an Oregon loss at Colorado tomorrow (or at Utah Saturday, yeah right).
I think Andy Brown is the most underrated player on the roster, the closest thing to a Rob Little/Josh Owens grit, muscle and glue guy that we have. He is a better shooter than either of those guys though, knocking down a three to keep Stanford tight early, trailing only 6-5.
I'm warming up on Bill Walton, as he tells us about Cal's Bak Bak on his senior day, and his personal story of escaping civil war in Sudan. Walton's a fellow "save the worlder"? And a Stanford guy to boot? Well shoot, why didn't you tell me earlier? [Edit: Right before the half, Walton says Oregon has the best athletic program in the conference. What?]
Allen Crabbe started off slowly but has two straight buckets now. He's the one guy Stanford needs to stop, obviously, but also the one guy on the floor who's hardest to stop. Stanford still leads 15-14 six minutes in, as Stanford has shot five free throws to none for Cal. The Bears are last in the conference at getting to the line, with a free throw to field goal ratio of just 26 percent. (At 33 percent, Stanford is sixth in the league at drawing fouls, with Powell the best on the team at that skill.)
Sure enough, Josh Huestis draws another whistle on a bump before his jumper. Then on the restart, Huestis has an easy hook down low as Cal doesn't double and doesn't jostle with him. Darned if do, darned if you don't. Huestis then gets a tip the next trip down the court, which doesn't drop, but still, a nice several minute spurt for him. Stanford leads 17-14 eight minutes in.
More Josh Huestis
A three from the right side and then a fadeaway from the left. He had shot it poorly lately, with a 1-of-10 night versus Colorado if memory serves, but is 3-of-4 tonight for nine points early. 22-18 Card.
Oh Defense, Where Art Thou?
For all the focus on offensive sets, or lack thereof, Stanford's biggest problem this season has been on defense. While they rate seventh in the league on D, the Card actually rank second on offense. The top five Pac-12 teams in terms of defensive efficiency? Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Colorado and Arizona. The five Pac-12 teams going dancing right now? Yeah, you guessed them.
The relevance tonight is that Stanford is shooting the lights out. 9-of-13 overall, and 3-of-4 deep. That's not sustainable and will come back to earth over the next 30 minutes. And when the Stanford attack inevitably regresses to the mean, Cal is in position to take advantage, thanks to their attack. Because the Bears are 9-of-17 on the day, their deficit is a manageable seven at the eight-minute mark, 27-20. With some better D, Stanford could be doubling up the Bears right now, or more.
Checkpoint: Two Powell Fouls
Dwight Powell picks up two fouls and hits the bench at the 6:27 mark. Stanford leads 27-20. Walton excoriates Johnny Dawkins for taking out Powell. We'll see what the score is when Powell reenters, and how many fouls he finishes up with tonight.
Cal slam of an in-bounds two seconds later. Gage turnaround down low. Crabbe three. Randle blocked, but picks up his miss and has a layup. Tyrone Wallace layup. It's a flurry of scoring, so complain as we might about Stanford's defense, the Bears fans have to be gritting their teeth more. Stanford entered tonight dead-last in the league in two-point percentage and Cal entered first in defending the two. Yet it's 31-27 Card at the under-four timeout, thanks to Stanford shooting 7-of-12 inside the line, and 5-of-5 at the line to boot.
One and Ones
Does anyone have a count on how many front ends we've missed this year? We're a pretty good free throw shooting team overall too, so I guess it's just one of those things. Aaron Bright put up Stanford's first free throw miss of the night – on the front end of a one-and-one. A few minutes later Josh Huestis has Stanford's second missed free throw of the night – also on the front end of a one-and-one. I have a feeling those four ghost points might come to cost us, but as is, Stanford leads 34-31 at the half.
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