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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Early this week, California head men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery said that the Bears could not afford to go a half without point guard Justin Cobbs taking a shot. He said that Cal needed to find a third, a fourth and maybe even a fifth scorer in order to succeed. On Saturday, Cobbs took plenty of shots in the first half. None of them fell. Junior wing Allen Crabbe did not sink his first bucket until 13:58 into the game. That all added up to an eight-point halftime deficit, and the Bears’ fourth loss in their past six games, falling to Stanford at Maples Pavilion by the count of 69-59.
Crabbe finished the day 6-for-13, scoring 12 of his 14 points after the half.
“I want to credit Andy Brown for doing a great jbo defensively, and our team defense was good tonight," said Chasson Randle. "We tried to make it a tough night for him. He’s a great player, and I’m sure he’ll come back fine.”
Cal (10-7, 2-3 in the Pac-12) started the game on a 7-2 run, only to see the Cardinal (11-7, 2-3) go on a 7-0 run, fueled by Randle.
Randle scored Stanford’s first seven points, hitting three of his first four shots. The Bears, though, came back strong on the backs of their big men, as Cal post players scored 14 of the Bears’ first 21 points. After starting the game without a single bucket in the paint over the first four minutes while the Cardinal scored two points down low, Cal proceeded to pour in eight over the next 5:14 and hold Stanford with not a single inside basket over that same span, to take a 19-17 lead.
Junior Richard Solomon scored seven points, adding four boards, two blocks and a steal in the first half alone, but while he and David Kravish combined for 19 of Cal’s 29 first-half points, it was when the pair were not on the floor together that things got a bit dicey.
After Solomon’s jumper gave the Bears a 21-17 lead with 10:14 to go in the first stanza, Cal missed its next seven straight shots, and to make matters worse, Solomon was dinged with his second foul of the game with 8:34 remaining in the first half, and was pulled for senior Bak Bak. The Cardinal then went on a 10-2 run over the next 5:05.
As Bak piled up three fouls in just three minutes on the floor, Solomon was forced back out, and was visibly tentative underneath for the remainder of the game. The 6-foot-10 junior finished with nine points on the night on 3-of-8 shooting.
With a post game hampered by foul trouble, Cobbs continued his shooting struggles, despite getting the ball off screens for much of the first half to get him some kind of good looks. Cobbs got an earful from the Stanford faithful, who began chanting air ball every time he touched the rock starting early on in the first half. Cobbs shot 0-for-7 from the floor in the first period, extending his streak of futility to 14-for-49 over four and a half conference games.
Cobbs and Crabbe came alive in the second half, with Cobbs nailing his first four shots -- including his first three-pointer since Dec. 18 -- and Crabbe hammering home a dunk with authority off the break with Cobbs and then putting the ball on the floor and rising up for a mid-post jumper to get the Bears to within one point with 13:08 to go, but big John Gage -- who hit a three with 4:15 left in the first half to cut down a Cal rally and put the Cardinal up 30-23 -- nailed another trey -- his fourth in four tries -- to put Stanford up, 48-42 with 11:31 remaining in the game, setting a career high with 14 points.
“It was a tremendous lift. John Gage threes are worth a lot for our team," said Dwight Powell. "When he gets it going, we get it going, and it’s good for the whole team.”
Powell was held largely in-check in the first half, starting the game shooting 1-for-5 with one rebound and one turnover in the first 11-plus minutes of the game. After the break, though, Powell poured it on and abused the Bears inside, getting to the line seven times and hitting all seven, three of which were somewhat controversial.
With the shot clock winding down and just over six minutes remaining, the Bears were still hanging around, down seven. Powell went up for a wild fake three-point attempt as the buzzer sounded, with Solomon falling for the ploy, hook, line and sinker. Solomon fell on Powell as he came down from his leap, and was called for a foul, rather than Powell being called for a shot clock violation. Powell hit all three of his free-throws to put the Cardinal up 10 points. Powell would finish with a game-high 17 points, and Stanford hit 25 of 31 from the charity stripe.
“I think we’ve been shooting free throws well this season, and I’m happy that the guys went to the line," said Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins. "We were fortunate to get guys like Dwight Powell on the line, but I was really happy with how we got to the line. I thought we attacked the basket and put ourselves in position to be fouled.”
After scoring 12 points in the first half, Kravish finished tied for the team scoring lead with Crabbe (14 points) and pulled down nine rebounds, largely limited by foul trouble. Both Kravish and true Tyrone Wallace (who finished with six points on 2-for-11 shooting, both three-pointers) fouled out, with Solomon and Bak each picking up four fouls apiece.
With the four Cal big men combining for 14 fouls on the night, Cardinal forward Josh Huestis was able to pull down a game-high 12 boards, while Powell finished with nine.
Stanford recorded 12 offensive rebounds -- marking the 12th time in 17 games the Bears have surrendered double-digit offensive boards.