Coming off back-to-back nail-biting road losses to No. 9 Arizona and Arizona State, Stanford men’s basketball (12-13, 4-9 Pac-12) returns home to host rival Cal (18-7, 9-4 Pac-12) Friday night at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal looks to avenge its 66-55 loss to the Bears on Jan. 29th earlier this season.
Last week, Stanford was tied 67-67 to Arizona with 1:55 remaining before Arizona reeled off seven straight points to end the game, escaping a loss that would have been the highlight of Stanford’s season so far. Then three days later, on Saturday, Stanford held a 69-68 lead over Arizona State with 37 seconds to go, before Arizona State scored the last seven to beat the Cardinal 75-68.
Like Stanford, Cal is also coming off a two-game road swing in Arizona, splitting the games with a win at Arizona State and a loss at Arizona. Before the 62-57 loss at Arizona, Cal had won five straight games and eight of their previous nine. But a five-point loss on the road to the ninth-ranked team in the country only validates the high level of play that Cal is currently achieving.
Cal’s team efforts are led by sophomore “big man” Ivan Rabb, a projected lottery pick in this years NBA draft should he leave school early. Rabb is averaging a double-double this year with 14.7 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a robust 46.2 percent from three-point land. Rabb will be looking to bounce back after an uncharacteristic four-point, three-rebound outing in 26 minutes at Arizona.
In the backcourt, the Bears are anchored by senior guard Jabari Bird, a steady presence for Cal over the past four years, averaging over 20 minutes per game in each of his four seasons. Bird is second on the team behind Rabb with 14.5 points and 32.7 minutes per game.
Against a quality Cal team that has momentum, Stanford will hope to continue its trend of keeping games close but finally capitalize when it matters most. In their first meeting, Stanford and Cal were tied at the break 25 apiece, before Cal pulled away in the second half.
Stanford continues to be paced by junior forward Reid Travis, who is the undisputed first scoring option on the Cardinal roster. Travis is coming off of a 26 point, 11 rebound outing versus Arizona and 17 points and 11 rebounds against Arizona State.
On the season, Travis is averaging 17.2 points per game, over five more than second leading scorer Dorian Pickens, who averages 12.0 for Stanford. Travis also leads the team with 8.6 rebounds per game, more than two more than their number two rebounder, junior forward Michael Humphrey.
Although averaging just 7.0 points on the year, senior guard Marcus Allen has provided a big scoring boost the past several games, contributing double digits the past three games, with 13, 15 and 20 points, respectively.
On top of relieving some of the scoring burden off of Travis’ shoulders, Allen’s recent play, athleticism, and driving ability give the Cardinal good penetration for easy interior baskets and kick-outs for open three point looks. Overall, taking some defensive attention off of Travis can only bode well for Stanford.
In their previous contest, Travis racked up four fouls and was kept to just 24 minutes of play because of foul trouble. The Cardinal will need him to stay on the floor for more time to have their best chance at downing the streaking Bears. His scoring, rebounding, and physical presence will be needed against the tall front line of Rabb, 7’0” junior center Kingsley Okoroh, and 7’1” junior center Kameron Rooks. With Travis’ limited minutes last meeting, the Cardinal were outrebounded 35-28.
If Travis can continue his recent strong play and stay out of foul trouble and Allen can keep taking some of the defense’s attention off of Travis while he is on the floor, Stanford has a good opportunity to climb back to .500 on the season with a home victory in front of what is sure to be a spirited, rivalry-motivated crowd.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion and can be seen on television on Fox Sports 1.
Contact Jamie MacFarlane at jamiemac ‘at’ stanford.edu.