Reeling from a 1-3 start to conference play, Stanford men’s basketball enters Saturday’s rivalry game against California trying to remain relevant in the Pac-12.
Stanford (10-7, 1-3 Pac-12) and California (10-6, 2-2) come in having played the same conference schedule thus far. While California has a better record, they have also been on the losing end of two blowouts.
Stanford has been close in every game, losing their three conference games by an average of five points, but has been unable to close out victories.
“We have been competitive in every single game,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “It’s a matter of us getting over the hump.”
California’s two conference losses have been by 14 and 15 points, including a loss to Washington in which they managed only 47 points.
The Golden Bears rely heavily on their guard tandem of juniors Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, who have accounted for half of the team’s total points this season.
Crabbe, a First Team All Pac-12 selection last year, is averaging 20.1 points per game. He leads the team in 3-pointers made with 26 and is shooting 35 percent from behind the arc.
Cobbs has carried less of the scoring load, averaging 14.9 ppg, but he leads the team in both steals and assists.
“Get used to it, fellas, it isn’t changing,” said California head coach Mike Montgomery of their style of play.
Behind its guard-heavy offense, California has underperformed this season. A pre-season pick to finish third in the Pac-12 after a NCAA Tournament birth last year, they are currently sixth.
They began the season with a six-game winning streak, but have lost six of 10 since, including three out of their last five. Only once during that span have they won back-to-back games.
“We told each other, we gotta get serious if we want to make a run at the Pac-12, like we’re capable of doing,” said Crabbe after California’s 67-54 victory over Washington State last Saturday. “We have all the weapons that we need to be successful. We all have to get on the same page.”
The home and away records bode well for Stanford, which has enjoyed a 7-2 mark at Maples Pavilion. California is a mere 2-2 in true away games, although they are 3-0 at neutral sites.
Key players have hit their stride of late for the Cardinal, including sophomore Chasson Randle, who has scored in double-digits in three straight games. Junior Dwight Powell, a constant force throughout this season, is also hot of late with a four-game double-digit scoring streak of his own.
He led the Cardinal with 19 points on 7-14 shooting while grabbing five rebounds against Washington last weekend, and Randle added 16 points on 7-11 shooting in 28 minutes off the bench. Randle, who has started all but two games in his career, did not start after arriving late to shootaround.
Regardless of how the stars play for Stanford tomorrow, the Cardinal needs to find a way to keep things together in the second half and down the stretch if the game is close. Against Washington, both teams produced identical shooting marks in the first half, connecting on 15-29 from the field. But after the break, Stanford was just 8-30 (26.7 percent), while Washington’s 9-22 (40.9 percent) clip was easily good enough to propel the Huskies to victory.
Stanford’s lone Pac-12 win to this point came against Washington State, which California has also beaten. Stanford and California have both lost to Washington and UCLA in Pac-12 play. Stanford also lost to USC, while California defeated them 72-64.