Boos in Haas Pavilion as California turns it over twice to start the second half. Meanwhile, Stanford has two inside buckets thanks to Chasson Randle, a solo layup and a dish to Josh Huestis. It’s too early to be saying this, but with Stanford ahead 40-33, hope runs eternal: Maybe this is when Stanford’s great 2013 run, ala 2012’s, gets started. Walton: “Everyone for Stanford is playing magnificently.”
Back into the game after his two first-half fouls, Powell draws fouls No. 3 on Richard Solomon and Tyrone Wallace. When Powell is not in the game, it not only hurts Stanford’s defense, but also makes it less likely that the Cardinal can get an opponent’s bigs into foul trouble. Sure enough, Solomon picks up No. 4 moments later, this time courtesy Josh Huestis, and hits the bench.
However, Powell picks up a completely needless No. 3 hedging 25 feet away from the hoop, and it’s back to the bench for him. John Gage enters and immediately draws an intentional foul, so the Cardinal look to be okay in this instance, but Powell needs to work on not fouling so darn much in the offseason.
At any rate, with all these whistles, Stanford has attempted eight free throws in the first four minutes of the second half, making seven. They now lead 47-35, their largest margin of the night.
Josh Huestis blocks Brandon Smith inside, the Cardinal’s second or third block of the young half already. Meanwhile, the Stanford lead is now 18 points, 53-35, with 13:43 left in the game.
A driving factor is that Stanford has made 16 free throws to Cal’s two! While a Mike Montgomery T accounted for the last two free throws, Stanford being the more physical team tonight explains much of the remaining discrepancy. Points in the paint are at 18 apiece but that stat does not begin to tell the story tonight: Stanford is working Cal down low.
Okay, we have officially reached the twilight zone. It’s 58-39 Cardinal as Cal has committed their seventh turnover of the half, which is some eight minutes young. Raise your hands if you saw this coming. While I wrote in the last section that Cal is getting worked down low and at the free throw line, the truth is, when you’re getting blown out, the other team is most likely dominating all facets of the game.
Sure enough, Stanford has 19 points off turnovers to Cal’s six, and is now 6-of-14 deep versus 1-of-6. The individual matchups are just as lopsided. Stanford is on pace to break Cal’s seven-game win streak, and 0-for-4 streak at Haas.
With a win tonight, Stanford will finish league play at 9-9. Yet, despite the near-.500 mark, Stanford entered tonight ninth of 12 in league play.
To finish seventh in the league, the Cardinal need a Washington loss tonight to USC (currently tied in the first half) and versus UCLA Saturday, and an Arizona State loss at Arizona on Saturday. The toughest of that parlay is that Washington/USC game tonight, by far.
The relevance of finishing seventh is that Stanford would then draw the No. 10 seed in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Utah, Oregon State and Washington State, each stuck on three league wins, are fighting it out for that tenth seed. Meanwhile, an Arizona State team that is still on the NCAA Tournament bubble, or a Washington team that beat Stanford at Maples, would be the likely matchup in an 8/9 game. That’s a huge difference in the opening stanza of what Stanford hopes is four wins in four days, should they make the Big Dance.
All Right Now
Back to the current action, it is still all Stanford. To their credit, Cal went on a bit of a run – I believe investors call it a “dead cat bounce” – but it looks to be too little, too late. It’s 68-53 Card at the six-minute mark as Solomon fouls out trying to go over Josh Huestis’ back.
The offensive stars tonight, Randle and Huestis each have 18 points. Meanwhile, Bright, Brown, Powell and Gage all have either eight or nine points, so everyone has been producing. Of course, as I type this, Bright misses Stanford’s third front end of a one and one – on a night when the Cardinal has missed all of three of 21 free throws. You couldn’t replicate that fluke if you tried.
Dwight Powell escalates a hard foul by no-look checking Aaron Crabbe to the ground. Crabbe jumps back up and shoves Powell in the back, hard. Everyone on the floor ends up jawing at each other and Bright and Justin Cobbs get into a shoving match. The coaches get onto the floor quickly to break it up, but with the review now approaching a good 15 minutes and Larry Scott in the building, I would think someone is getting ejected and is going to miss the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament.
The refs come to discuss with both head coaches at midcourt. The coaches look like repentant schoolchildren caught by the headmaster, and now both men are pleading their cases. Neither look happy. Uh oh…
No one actually on the floor is ejected, and hopefully for Stanford fans, none of their players will be retroactively suspended for the Pac-12 Tournament opener, which is do-or-die. Meanwhile, all of Stanford’s assistants, Gage Harris, Richard Solomon of Cal and a Cal assistant are ejected for leaving the bench. It’s crazy to eject assistants from both teams for leaving the bench when they were going to break up the fight, not escalate it, and not kick out anyone who actually fought, but this is the NCAA, folks. The important thing is to maintain the illusion of control and, above all, “doing something”, while not actually taking out anyone who contributes the most to the bottom line.
Gotta give it to Cal fans for chanting N-I-T at us while waiting for the interminable review to conclude. The air has left the building by now, but their student section showed up tonight.
It’s a chippy final few minutes, while several fouls and scrums for loose balls. Elsewhere, Washington leads USC by six with three to go, so that 8/9 game might be locked up in a few minutes. If so, after Washington or ASU in round one, it will be top seed Oregon in round two, as the Ducks now have two games on everyone but UCLA, and they have the head-to-head win and tiebreak over the Bruins. Arizona, the class of the league, is also on the four line, which means Stanford wouldn’t have to play them until the finals. Nice. So all that for another night, but tonight, Stanford hangs on 83-70 after a chippy second half.
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