Card with chance to sweep Cal

March 5, 2013, 11:42 p.m.

The Stanford men’s basketball team bounced back from a heartbreaking last-second loss to Colorado by trouncing the Utah Utes on Sunday night.

The Cardinal dismantled the Utes at Maples Pavilion, winning by a final score of 84-66. However, it was too little too late for a Stanford team that, despite having high hopes of earning an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament midway through the season, dropped five out of seven games before beating Utah.

(MICHAEL KHEIR/ The Stanford Daily)
Junior forward John Gage will need to be a strong contributor off the bench to help the Card defeat the Bears. (MICHAEL KHEIR/ The Stanford Daily)

Still, the Card has proven it can play with anyone in the Pac-12, beating Oregon earlier in the year and taking other top Pac-12 teams like Arizona, UCLA and Colorado down to the wire. If Stanford is able to find a rhythm in the Pac-12 Tournament, it has as good a chance as any other team in the conference to come out on top and earn a trip to the Tournament.

The Cardinal (17-13, 8-9 Pac-12) will not need any added motivation on Wednesday night, as it travels to Berkeley, Calif. to take on its archrival: the California Golden Bears (20-9, 12-5).

Stanford delivered one of its best performances of the season the first time these two squads faced off, beating Cal (a team that will most likely earn an at-large bid) 69-59. The Bears will certainly be looking to exact revenge in front of their home crowd this time around, as both teams look for a solid performance in their tune-up game before the Pac-12 Tournament.

Junior guard Allen Crabbe will lead the way for the Bears’ balanced offensive attack. The 6-foot-6-inch wing player uses his length to get into the paint; he leads Cal in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting from the field. Crabbe has the skill set to hurt defenses in a variety of ways. He is shooting a modest 35.2 percent from beyond the arc, and creates second chance opportunities with his offensive rebounding abilities. The versatile NBA prospect is also averaging six rebounds and 2.6 assists per game to go along with his scoring prowess.

Stanford guards sophomore Chasson Randle and junior Aaron Bright will have their hands full in slowing Crabbe down.

Backcourt mate Justin Cobbs has largely contributed to the Bears recent success. He is leading the team in assists, averaging 4.7 per game and has been a solid distributor for Cal. The 6-foot-3-inch guard is also second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting. Cobbs and Crabbe have complimented each other nicely this season, and will look to continue their success against the Card.

Stanford, currently sitting in ninth in the conference standings, will most likely remain in this position heading into the Pac-12 Tournament. It is possible, though unlikely, that the team will leapfrog Washington and move into the eighth spot, but this requires a win at Cal.

In order for the Card to pull off a win at rowdy Haas Pavilion, it will depend on the consistent play of junior forward Dwight Powell. Powell leads the Card in scoring with 15.3 ppg and 8.2 rpg. His 17 points and nine rebounds against Cal the first time around fueled the Jan. 19 win. Powell’s dominant play has also been matched most of the season by Randle (14.1 ppg) and Josh Huestis (10.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

The determined offensive mind of Powell, the speed and defensive intensity of Randle and the rebounding prowess of Huestis could give the Card a chance to clinch a second win over Cal. All three leaders must show up to perform if the Card is to accomplish this.

The Cardinal’s season has been defined by solid basketball and missed opportunities to this point. It will look to reverse its fate as it heads into postseason play. A win against Cal tonight will give the Card a much-needed boost heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

Contact Mike Schwartz at mikes23 ‘at ‘

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