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Cal Basketball

Underdog Bears Have Hopes Against Stanford

March 6, 2018

Stanford has considerably more at stake in Wednesday’s Pac-12 Tournament first round matchup than Cal does.  

The Bears (8-23, 2-16 Pac-12) have little to play for besides pride and another night in Vegas. Stanford (17-14, 11-7) has faint hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth, or at the very least a good seed in the NIT.

Given the difference in motivation and the fact the Cardinal come into the game having won four of their last five games including one over the Bears on Feb. 18, conventional wisdom says they should have an easy time of it Wednesday afternoon.

However, coach Jerod Haas cautions that his team must not take this one lightly. “We’re at the point in the season that if there’s a concern of our guys being ready and motivated, the season’s going to be over pretty quick,”  Haase said Tuesday before the Cardinal departed for Vegas.

And he might have reason for concern. After all, one of Cal’s two wins was against Stanford in the Pac-12 opener, as the Bears came from 17 points down to knock off the Cardinal on the road.

And Cal head coach Wyking Jones feels that is only part of the reason his team might have a chance on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if that (having beaten Stanford) makes so much of a difference,” Jones said in a telephone interview. “Later in the conference season we were able to put together some pretty good games against some pretty good teams, and I think the guys are kind of feeding off the energy of that more than anything.

“Being able to play Arizona tough on the road, things like that, is what give our guys confidence going into this game.”

Stanford’s Reid Travis, who is the only player besides Arizona’s mighty DeAndre Ayton to be among the top five leaders in the conference in both scoring and rebounding, was relatively quiet in both games against the Bears, He scored just 15 and 13 points respectively, considerably under his season average of 19.6.

“I think that his having to go against Marcus (Lee) and Kingsley (Okoroh), two guys with tremendous size, two shot blockers, it’s not as easy for him,” Jones said. “You never feel like you shut him down, he’s really good, But he hasn’t exploded.  I felt he hasn’t had a game where he got completely out of hand.”

Stanford averages 37.3 per cent from three-point range, second best number in the conference. Yet they shot just 29.4 in the first game and were 1-for-5 in the second half of their more recent meeting.

“Well, the main guy that can hurt you from three is Dorian Pickens and every time we have paid a lot of attention to not let him get going from three,” said Jones. “They have a lot of other guys that can really shoot. Daejon Davis and well as Michael Humprey, but he’s the main guy from three.” And Pickens made just four three-pointers in thet two games.

Humphrey (10 above), who stands 6-9, does present a problem with his three-point accuracy (23-for-55, 41.8 per cent). The Bears don’t want him shooting over smaller guards, so Lee and Okoroh have to occasionally follow him to the perimeter, all the while staying conscious of their duties under the basket.

“When you have a guy that can shoot it the way he can you’ve got to respect it,” Jones said. “Our (big) guys get out there. The shots that he’s gotten have been on penetration and kick. Their (Lee and Okoroh) number one goal is to protect the paint, so he has been able to hit a couple of shots against us because our guys are in the paint, trying to defend the paint.”

Jones admits that Stanford has improved since the Bears last saw them, and he says a prime reason is Davis, the point guard who was selected to the conference’s All-Freshman team.

“I would say they’ve gotten better,” he said. “I think that it starts with Daejon Davis. He has gotten a lot more comfortable with running their offense. Finding his groove, having games under his belt where he’s been able to figure some things out. I would say that he is not playing like a freshman, that’s for sure.”

Davis is averaging 10.6 points per game and in conference play is averaging 5.5 assists, while cutting down on his turnovers.

Stanford’s 11 conference wins are the most they have had in ten years.  Technically the Cardinal are in a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings with Utah and UCLA. But they were dropped to the fifth seed through the tie-breakers and have to play on the tournament’s opening day. Seeds one through four get byes.

Travis told the media on Tuesday that the thought of having to play the extra game rankled a bit,

“I though it was unfortunate that we wound up getting the fifth seed. It’s something we could have controlled throughout the season,” he said. But then shrugged it off.

“We relish the opportunity to go play another game. Obviously, the path is a little easier when you’re trying to win three games as opposed to four.”

Winston Likely Out: Jones said the freshman reserve guard Deschon Winston sustained an injury in practice and is likely sidelined because of concussion protocol.

Notes: The winner in both Cal-Stanford matchups this season scored 77 points … Cal has won its opening round tournament games the last three years. …In 2015 and 2017 the Bears played in the first round. In 2016 they had a bye and won their quarterfinal match. … The winner of this game gets f0urth-seeded UCLA on Thursday.








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