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Cal Basketball

Stanford a Tall Order for Bears to Take On

February 2, 2019

Stanford, which faces Cal in Haas Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, is the sort of lineup that gives the Bears trouble.

“They are long and they are athletic,” said Cal coach Wyking Jones. That is just what Cal doesn’t need. With KZ Okpala (6-9), Oscar da Silva (6-9) and Josh Sharma (7-0) the Cardinal can start a front-line that dwarfs the Bears’ regulars. Only Connor Vanover (7-3) can “measure up” to them and his playing time has markedly decreased lately. The Bears (5-15, 0-8 Pac-12) have lost nine games in a row. If they want to avoid tying the school record for consecutive losses they must do better with the Stanford bigs than they have with other teams’ who have pretty much had their way with Cal under the basket.

“They are very good at attacking the rim,” Jones said of the Stanford front line. He said the Bears must be physical on defense. “It starts with keeping them out of the lane,” Jones said. “Staying in front, make them come through your body. They are very dangerous when they get in the lane because they are great finishers.’

Stanford (10-10, 3-5) won two of the three meetings with the Bears last year, including a 76-58 thrashing in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Cardinal suffered an offseason blow when Reid Travis, last year’s leading scorer (19.5 pp) elected to use his final year of eligibility at Kentucky as a graduate transfer.

“They are a different team because (point guard Daejon) Davis has matured,” Jones said. “I feel like he is more consistent than he was last year, he’s gotten better. And Okpala has taken his game to a whole other level. He has gotten many times better than he was last year. You’ve got look at him and say he’s one of the best prospects in our conference. He’s improved his shot. Last year he was just a driver, this year he is still bringing it to the rim, but he can also knock down a three. And Josh Sharma has gotten better than he was.

“Reid Travis was a force, Mike Humphrey (who graduated)  losing those guys hurt. But the young guys have stepped up.”

Okpala is averaging 17.5 points per game, which is good for fourth in the conference. He has scored 29 points twice this season, is hitting 43.9 per cent from three-point range, which is third best in the conference.

The Bears did fairly well against him last year. As a freshman last year he averaged an even ten points per game, but against Cal last year he averaged just eight, and his overall field goal percentage was a 23.6. However last year’s Cal team had more size to bother Okpala than this year’s.

Davis, who took over as the point guard as a freshman last year, is second on the team in  scoring at 12.6 points per game. He also is something of a motivator. The Cardinal were in a bit of  funk against Colorado last week when Davis got himself hit with a technical foul.

“I was just trying to get my guys fired up,” he told reporters afterward. “I mean, after I got that technical foul or whatever, it kind of gave my guys a little energy.” The Cardinal prevailed, 75-62.

If Davis has a weakness it is carelessness with the basketball. He has 67 turnovers in 20 games this year, too many for an effective point guard.

In the victory over Colorado, Da Silva led the Cardinal in scoring with 21 points. That is 21 more than he had in the loss to Utah two nights earlier. He averages just 9.9 points per game, and his yo-yo performances last weekend have been typical of his season.

“Until he has a consistency about his approach, his attitude and a consistency to his greediness, he’s not going to have a consistent performance,” head coach Jerod Haase told the San Francisco Chronicle. Haase wants him to have “more fire in his belly.” according to the Chronicle.

Sharma is a defensive force who averages 8.5 points on the other end. He has 26 of Stanford’s 100 blocks, a total that ranks the Cardinal third in the category in the league. Sharma, however, has 26 turnovers, an unusually high number for a center who doesn’t handle the ball all that often.

Overall Stanford is giving up 72.9 points per game, not real good, but better than Cal’s league worst 79.2.

“They go between 1-3-1 zone, try to bother you and use their length,” Jone said. “And then they play a lot of 2-3 zone as well. They play a little bit of man, but not a lot.”

Fouling the Cardinal players might not be the worst thing Cal could do. Stanford is shooting just 67.2 per cent from the free throw line, ranking tenth in the conference.

Tip off Sunday is at 1 p.m. and presents something a schedule conflict for Cal fans. The baskervall game probably won’t end until after the Super Bowl kicks off, featuring former Cal QB Jared Goff. Attendance has been disappointing this season anyway. Just how many Cal fans will show up is anybody’s guess. 


The Bears


The Bears had an unusual week of practice. On Monday and Tuesday Jones and his staff hit the recruiting trail and let the players run the practice themselves. The players were off Wednesday and resumed practice with the coaches on Thursday.

“I just felt like with the break the coaches needed to be out recruiting,” Jones said in a conference call Friday. “And I wanted guys to get a break from us for a little bit. We had a real good practice yesterday.”

Jones said that Roman Davis has been bothered by “back issues”. His availability Saturday will be a “game-time” decision.

Jones’ overall record of 13-39 and the nine game losing streak have a lot of alumni and Cal followers calling for his head. Just check out the Bear Insider discussion forums for a sample. Athletic director Jim Knowlton has said repeatedly, most recently in an interview with The Chronicle, that he has no intention of changing coaches during the season. He said he has hope the Bears can turn things around, even this late in the season.

“I am hoping no one has given up on them (the team),”  Knowlton told the paper. “I certainly haven’t. The coaches haven’t.”

Jones said he sees “a light at the end of the tunnel.”  He said he is aware of the rumblings, but tries to ignore it. “I don’t let it distract me. I don;t let it bother me,” Jones said. “I don’t deal with it  I try to do my job, help us get better every day. And I don’t let that affect me.”




Discussion from...

Stanford a Tall Order for Bears to Take On

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Yale was a tall order for this team.
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fat_slice said:

Yale was a tall order for this team.
True; but I think the point of the headline had to do with height.
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