Hoping to rebound from a tough journey through Washington that saw it drop from first to fifth in the Pac-12, the Stanford men’s basketball team (15-6, 5-4 Pac-12) traveled to Berkeley Sunday night to take on the rival California Golden Bears. Despite a strong first half, the Cardinal was not able to stick with the Bears, ending a disappointing road trip with its third straight loss, 69-59.
Cal (17-5, 7-2) was coming off a surprising defeat at the hands of Washington State, but had been utterly dominant at home, entering the matchup with a sterling 13-0 record at Haas Pavilion.
Sophomore forward Dwight Powell made his second straight appearance in the starting lineup after being hampered by injuries for much of the season, and he immediately made his presence felt. Powell had scored 20 points in Stanford’s last meeting with the Bears and seemed poised for another big game, scoring nine of the Cardinal’s first 14 points.
The rest of the Stanford team, however, couldn’t buy a bucket, and the Bears roared to a 25-16 lead 15 minutes into the first half. At this point, sophomore center Stefan Nastic took over. The big man, who had played over 10 minutes just once this season, scored eight of his career-high 11 points in the last five minutes as Stanford stormed back to take a 33-32 lead into the half.
Both teams came out of the locker room weakly, combining for just five points in the first five minutes. The poor shooting continued, leaving Cal clinging to a slim 44-43 lead at the 10-minute mark.
At that point the wheels started to come off for the Cardinal. Stanford shot 6-for-14 from the field to close the game, as well as a horrendous 4-for-9 from the charity stripe. The Cardinal also committed nine of its 25 fouls over that time frame, with Powell fouling out at the 4:55 mark.
Poor shooting has been a recurring theme for the Cardinal, as it suffered from its third straight horrible performance, hitting just 38.5 percent from the field, 63 percent from the line and 13.3 percent from three-point range. It marked Stanford’s seventh straight game making fewer than 70 percent of its free throws, a terrible figure that head coach Johnny Dawkins needs to work on correcting as the Cardinal falls further and further from NCAA Tournament contention.
Stanford was outrebounded for just the fourth time this year (yet second time in a row). The Cardinal was especially hurt by a weak performance on the offensive boards, as it managed just four to Cal’s 10.
Cal’s senior point guard Jorge Gutierrez managed to snag 12 rebounds, more than doubling his season average and equaling the number of boards grabbed by Stanford’s leading rebounders Josh Owens and Josh Huestis combined.
The Bears pulled away after halftime due primarily to an impressive effort from senior forward Harper Kamp. Kamp scored 13 of his 15 points in the last 15 minutes while taking just five shots from the field the entire game.
For the second straight game, Stanford was unable to stop the opposing guard play. Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs combined for 42 of the Bears’ 69 points, with Crabbe leading all scorers with 18.
With another loss, Stanford has now fallen into a tie for fifth in the conference, two games back from leaders Cal and Washington. The Card will return to Maples Pavilion this week to take on Arizona State and Arizona, needing wins in order to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 crown and an NCAA Tournament bid.