The scene was set at Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night. UCLA lost to Washington State in Pullman earlier in the day, meaning only Oregon had to lose one of their next two games (against Colorado and Utah) for Cal to earn a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title and the #1 seed in the conference tournament. All the Golden Bears, winners of their last seven, had to do was beat a Stanford team that had been miring in mediocrity for the past few weeks. At home, on Senior Night. Easy enough, right?
Apparently it was not easy at all, as the Bears fell to the Cardinal 83-70 in a contest that wasn’t even that close. The game got off to a quick score, with the two teams trading baskets, setting the tone for an offensively-oriented game. Unfortunately for Cal, a few key stretches involving turnovers, defensive lapses, and questionable referee calls sided with Stanford and ultimately decided the outcome.
For a team that had been playing so well on defense, this was a bit of a surprise for the Bears. Mike Montgomery seemed to double down on the paint, refusing to let the Cardinal inside game get started. However, the team from the Peninsula could not miss from the perimeter and the outside. They shot just under 50% from the field, but made nine of their 17 shots from beyond-the-arc, and seemed to respond effectively to every big shot that Cal made with one of their own. Chasson Randle led the way for Stanford, with 20 points and four of the nine three-pointers (he did foul out, though). Additionally, three other Stanford starters were in double digits, and the whole night the Bears could not close on the shooter.
As is usually expected, Cal was provided with great contributions from the Allen Crabbe-Justin Cobbs duo, who tied for the game high with 24 points each. The rest of the team could not add their share, as these two were the only players who scored more than 10 points. The team shot well from the field, posting an even 50% FG-rate, but were again plagued by their sloppiness with the ball, committing 17 turnovers to Stanford’s six. This has been a problem for the Bears, even during the winning streak, and is the first issue that must be addressed going forward.
The highlight (more like a lowlight) of the game came with just over five minutes left to play, when a scuffle for a loose ball almost turned into a rumble. Coaches and referees had to intervene, and the official review of the situation took a good portion of time. Every Stanford coach was ejected from the game, and Cal’s Richard Solomon and assistant coach Greg Gottlieb suffered the same fate. Though the faith was still alive, it was around this time when the Bears had really begun to lose control of the game, and the emotions from both sides just ran too high.
The regular season is now over for these two teams, and they will await their fates. Stanford is likely headed to the NIT, and Johnny Dawkins might have a little more job security after sweeping the Bears this year. Cal, which still has a shot at the regular-season crown if UCLA loses again and Oregon drops both games, is looking to go to the Big Dance. But, there is still a tournament to be played in Las Vegas, and how they both perform could completely alter their postseason destinies.