Stanford (17-9, 8-6 Pac-12) eked out a much-needed win against the rival California Golden Bears (16-11, 6-8) to improve in conference play and move within a game and a half of 3rd place in the Pac-12.
After losing four of their last five heading into this game, the Cardinal were able to correct some evident flaws in their recent play. Stanford’s defense had been disappointing, as it gave up an average of 74.3 points in those losses. The bench unit had also lacked productivity, averaging only 6.67 points in Stanford’s last six games.
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Freshman forward Michael Humphrey bucked that trend with a spectacular game. He notched his first double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Humphrey credited his success to the momentous occasion of playing Cal in an important conference game. “Being a rivalry game — it was a big game — somebody needed to step up and multiple people stepped up,” Humphrey said. “We knew our backs were against the wall and we needed to get a win today and everybody had to play their best.” The 6-foot-9 freshman impressively made seven of his eight field goal attempts. He used baseline cuts to great effect, getting behind Cal’s frontcourt when they would step up to help against Chasson Randle’s and Anthony Brown’s drives. The senior guards didn’t have great shooting nights, but contributed in other ways. Brown shot 5-of-13, but was 3-of-5 on attempts from deep. Randle shot 5-of-16, but was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line and accumulated a career-high 8 assists.
Head coach Johnny Dawkins emphasized the defensive effort as a key part of the win.
“Our guys, especially in the first half, it was some of the best defense we played all year,” he said.
The defense was much improved. The perimeter players fought through screens, and rotations from the weak side were much crisper than in Stanford’s last five games. The Cardinal held Cal to 23 points in the first half on 11-of-31 shooting from the field, including 0-of-7 from 3-point land.
Sophomore guard Marcus Allen set the tone early with aggressive play on defense and helped contain Cal’s best player, junior guard Tyrone Wallace, to shooting 4-of-14 from the field (0-of-3 from three).
Dawkins praised the Cardinal’s tenacity and will hope to continue this type of play in the last three home games of the season.
“All in all, it was a great effort by our team,” he said. “Just because you come home doesn’t mean you’re going to win. You have to go out there and you have to earn it always, and our guys earned the victory tonight.”
Stanford will look to finish the season on a strong note as it makes its tournament push. The team’s next game is on Thursday, Feb. 26 against Oregon State at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irod973 ‘at’ stanford.edu.