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Cal Basketball

Bears Upset Stanford in Conference Tourney Again

March 10, 2021

In one of the most impressive games Cal’s men’s basketball team has played under coach Mark Fox, the Bears on Wednesday night earned the right to play again.

They took the lead from the start, survived a couple of Stanford rallies and for the second straight year beat the Cardinal in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas, 76-58. 

Only the second team to advance as an 11th seed in the history of this event, the Bears earned the right to face third-seeded Colorado Thursday night.

The one-sided final score is not an accurate reflection of how the game went. For most of the night, Stanford, which never led, was within reach. But as the second half wound on it was obvious that for this one night at least Cal (9-19) was the better team. 

It was clearly a group effort as the Bears played a cloying defense that made the Cardinal uncomfortable, swarmed the backboards and were efficient on offense, That combination was too much for Stanford (14-13) which lost its fifth game in a row.

“A hard-fought game, we have a lot of respect for Stanford,” head coach Mark Fox said afterward. “They had beaten us (twice) early in the year. We knew we would have to be much more physical and play a lot harder tonight than we had earlier. And we did that. We had ten days to prepare for the game and we spent most of that on ourselves. I thought the hard work our kids did and it paid off tonight.”

Matt Bradley, as he has been pretty much every minute he was on the court this season, was Cal’s all-around leader. He finished with 19 points, six rebounds, six assists, and an amazing block that took the starch out of Stanford’s final rally. Surprisingly he did not start, and Fox declined to say why. “It’s nothing big,” he assured the media.

In an impressive first half in which they hit 55.6 percent of their field goal attempts, the Bears built a 35-29 lead at the break. Stanford gradually cut into it as Cal’s shooting fell. At the 9:03 mark, the Cardinal trailed just 48-47. The Bears opened it up to a 4-point lead but soon their lead was back down to a single point and Stanford had the ball.

The Cardinal’s 6-10, Lucas Kisunas went up for a dunk that everybody but Bradley figured would give Stanford its first lead. Circling around in front of the taller Cardinal, Bradley blocked the shot. Andre Kelly got the rebound, the Bears sped up the floor and Bradley, the ball in his hands again, got it to Ryan Betley who hit a 3-pointer. 

The Bears took off from there. Before Stanford scored again Cal had an 11-point lead, and the dispirited Cardinal went quietly from there.

“There were a lot of big plays, that certainly was one of them,” Fox said. “We had talked about how in the previous game Washington had a blocked shot right at the last minute. You have to play every play to the bitter end and finish every play. Matt kept playing, he didn’t surrender the dunk.”

Kelly said the play was typical of Bradley. “Matt always goes for them,” said Kelly, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. “I see them all the time, he does that a lot. You see a guy going up for a dunk and you see Matt flying down blocking it. That definitely gave us some momentum.

In his Zoom news conference on Tuesday, Fox had stressed how important it was for the Bears to defend Stanford star Oscar da Silva, who had made so much trouble for them in the earlier games.

Mission accomplished. Da Silva scored just 12 points, was just 4-of-12 from the field, and was a non-factor. Granted he had missed the previous three games with an injury and was clearly not 100 percent physically. But the Bears, particularly Kelly, did a defensive number on him.

“He’s a great player, I don’t want to take anything away from our team or anything away from him. He’s had a remarkable career,” Fox said. “He will be an NBA player….Injuries and coming back from them that’s hard to do, certainly, that was a contributing factor to him not being as productive as he was the first two games.”

Overall Cal held Stanford to 37.7 percent field goal shooting and the Bears outrebounded the Cardinal, 31-22.

Fox credited the Bears’ success to having some serious practice time as they had not played for since Feb. 27.

“We just had ten days to actually practice,” he said. “And really grind. It’s hard to practice like our guys practiced in the month of March. But we did it, our guys bought into it and I thought it carried over to the game today.”

Colorado awaits at 8:30 Thursday night. The Bears were blown out by the Buffaloes in Boulder in January, and upset them in Berkeley last month. Cal did not win another game after that until Wednesday.

Related Stories:

Matt Bradley Named To All-Pac-12 Squad

Cal Hoops: Bears Go Winless in Season Finale Against Oregon Schools (Premium)


Discussion from...

Bears Upset Stanford in Conference Tourney Again

2,761 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by dimitrig
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The team saved one of Its better games for today. Beating Furd is always sweet.

Hell yeah!
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Go Bears!

They've beaten Colorado before so they know what they have to do!

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