Any optimism brought about by the Stanford men’s basketball team’s recent East Coast road trip will have to temporarily be put on hold, as the Cardinal (9-4, 0-1 Pac-12) dropped its Pac-12 opener to Cal (10-4, 1-0) 69-62 at home on Thursday night.
Although the game was close throughout, it was Cal that better executed its game plan and made the big shots down the stretch. The Golden Bears held the Cardinal to just 36.4-percent shooting in the second half and 28.6-percent overall from 3-point range.
Stanford is a team that prides itself on its defense, and, despite holding its archrival to 42.1-percent shooting for the game, the Cardinal could not find the answers on the offensive end to come away with the victory. Stanford tallied a season-low seven assists and made just 10 of 20 free throws, which compounded the team’s problems shooting from the field.
“We didn’t finish as well as we usually do,” head coach Johnny Dawkins told GoStanford.com. “We didn’t shoot from the line how we usually do, and that is very disappointing. It is something that our guys work on, and they know the importance of it.”
The Cardinal was able to stay close in the second half thanks to a tremendous effort by senior forward Dwight Powell, who scored 15 of the team’s 19 points over a 10-minute stretch in the second half before fouling out.
Despite the problems the team was having offensively, Stanford was able to put together a 13-3 run to take a 56-54 lead with 5:17 remaining, capped by a Powell free throw.
From there on out, however, Cal’s senior guard and leading scorer Justin Cobbs took over, rallying the Bears by scoring nine of his 18 points, in addition to an assist on a dunk, in the final 3:31 of the game.
Two costly turnovers by Stanford junior Chasson Randle allowed the Bears to take a four-point lead with 2:36 remaining, and a terrific offensive sequence by Cobbs on consecutive possessions gave the Bears a 64-58 lead with 1:06 left to play.
Free throws by Randle, a missed free throw by Cal sophomore Tyrone Wallace and a jumper by Randle once more cut the Cal lead to one possession, 65-62, with 0:53 left, but the Cardinal was never able to get any closer. Cobbs iced the game by scoring the final four points for the Golden Bears, who secured their first victory at Maples Pavilion since March 6, 2010.
Dwight Powell led the Cardinal with 16 points, while Randle added 15 and senior Anthony Brown contributed 14.
Wallace paced the Bears with 20, while Cobbs finished with 18 and senior Richard Solomon contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Stanford’s lack of depth, which has become an issue due to the season-ending injuries sustained by senior guard Aaron Bright, sophomore guard Christian Sanders and fifth-year senior forward Andy Brown, was a glaring weakness for the Cardinal throughout, but especially down the stretch. The bench failed to score a single point for Stanford for the second time in four games, and it was clear that Dawkins had few reliable options to turn to when seniors Stefan Nastic and Powell fouled out in the final four minutes of the game.
“Stefan fouling out was big. He anchors our post and not having him in there hurt us,” Dawkins told GoStanford.com. “It was a tough play. He was being aggressive. We want him going in there to the offensive boards, and it was unfortunate that he went over a young man’s back. He was giving us a presence down there. A lot of our offense flows with what we do with him.”
As the Pac-12 season progresses, it is clear that someone will have to step up to help shoulder some of the starters’ load. Against Cal, Stanford’s starting lineup of Randle, Brown, Huestis, Powell and Nastic played a combined 179 out of a possible 200 minutes, and it would have been more had Powell and Nastic not fouled out.
The Cardinal will search for some answers offensively and look to find a solution for its depth problem when it takes on Oregon State and Oregon on the road next week.
Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.