There are some games where records just don’t matter. Tournament seeding, March Madness implications, momentum swings — you name it, but none of it matters. These are rivalry games, and when the Stanford Cardinal rolls into Berkeley to take on the California Golden Bears, all bets are off.
Cal and Stanford have gone in opposite directions in recent weeks. While the Cardinal saw its chances of earning an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament deteriorate after losing five out of seven games, the Bears rebounded from a tough loss to Arizona State on Feb. 7 by winning seven games in a row, including upsets over Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. However, after tip off, none of this mattered.
The Cardinal dominated in the second half, building a 19-point lead and surviving a late-game brawl that saw four Stanford assistant coaches and senior Gabe Harris ejected. Though the Bears tried to build some momentum from the altercation to close out their Senior Night, Stanford (18-14, 9-9 Pac-12) held on for the statement win against Cal (20-10, 12-6), 83-70.
“We wanted to prove we’re tough too,” said sophomore guard Chasson Randle, “and I think we did that.”
Junior guard Justin Cobbs helped Cal jump out to an early lead, knocking down a pair of jump shots. Stanford guard Aaron Bright responded by making a jumper of his own to put Stanford on the board. The two squads then traded baskets until Randle knocked down a 3-pointer to give Stanford its first lead of the game (12-10) with 14:57 remaining in the first half.
The Cardinal managed to hold onto this slim advantage until Cal’s Ricky Kreklow forced Randle into a turnover, leading to an Allen Crabbe basket on the fast break. Stanford’s Josh Huestis then stole the lead right back, knocking down a 3-pointer on the next possession to put the Cardinal up 20-18. A couple of jumpers from juniors Dwight Powell and Bright then stretched Stanford’s lead to 26-20 with 7:50 to play, the team’s biggest of the first half.
Powell then picked up an unnecessary foul, forcing him to the bench with 6:30 remaining in the half. Cal tried to take advantage of his absence and mount a comeback. Cobbs knocked down a three, but Randle responded by nailing one from beyond the arc on the next possession. The Card held onto a five-point lead heading into the last possession before the break, but Allen Crabbe found David Kravish under the basket for an easy score, cutting Stanford’s lead to 34-31 at halftime.
Stanford, despite being a heavy underdog, came out of the break with a newfound confidence. Powell found redshirt junior Andy Brown cutting to the basket for an easy layup with 17:08 to play, extending Stanford’s lead to 43-35. California forward Richard Solomon then picked up his fourth foul on the next possession, forcing him to the bench early in the second half.
The Cardinal grabbed a double-digit lead after Josh Huestis and John Gage each knocked down a pair of free throws, and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery called a timeout with his team down 47-35.
It was to no avail, as the Cardinal continued to dominate the Bears on both ends of the court. A frustrated Montgomery then took his anger out on the referees, drawing a technical foul.
Stanford kept its foot on the gas pedal for the next few minutes. Randle, unimpeded by the hand in his face, knocked down a three pointer to put Stanford up 56-37 with 13:20 to play.
However, the Bears began to find the offensive rhythm that had helped them win seven games in a row, as Cobbs knocked down a pair of free throws and Crabbe chipped in a 3-pointer. Stanford quickly responded, as Josh Huestis knocked down a three of his own. Randle then made another shot from behind the arc to give Stanford a 64-46 lead with 8:31 to play.
Things got ugly around the five-minute mark after Aaron Bright dove for a loose ball. Crabbe then jumped onto Bright, attempting to strip the ball.
After the whistles sounded, Powell tried to separate the pair but inadvertently elbowed Crabbe, sending the Cal star to the ground and sparking an altercation. Huestis got involved and both head coaches immediately rushed to the floor, hoping to keep things from getting out of hand. Four Stanford assistant coaches — including former Cardinal player Mark Madsen — were ejected along with Harris, while one Cal player and one Cal coach were also tossed. A total of six players received personal fouls.
“Emotions run high,” said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. “It’s a rivalry game with a lot on the line for both teams. I don’t think anybody did anything flagrant. It’s just unfortunate.”
According to a Pac-12 spokesperson, none of the players were ejected for fighting so no automatic suspensions — which would have kept the guilty party out of the first game of the Pac-12 Tournament — were incurred.
While the break in play helped Cal find a rhythm, it was too little too late for a Golden Bears team that could not get it going offensively for the first 36 minutes. Stanford won 83-70, proving to the rest of the Pac-12 that it is a real threat to win the upcoming conference tournament.
Randle and Huestis led the way for the Cardinal in their most impressive performances of the season. Randle scored 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting before fouling out. Huestis was not far behind, pitching in with 18 points of his own. The pair combined to shoot 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
The Cardinal’s only chance of earning a trip to the 2013 NCAA Tournament is winning the conference tournament. After watching this performance, there is no reason to believe that this is unrealistic.
Contact Mike Schwartz at mikes23 “at” stanford.edu.