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Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 8, 2013

Stanford heads into postseason with momentum

Completing season sweep of Cal could help Cardinal in upcoming Pac-12 Tournament

by Keith Peters

The Stanford men's basketball team accomplished quite a lot with its stirring 83-70 victory over host California on Wednesday night in Berkeley to close the regular season in the Pac-12 Conference.

First and foremost, the Cardinal improved to 9-9 in the conference (18-13 overall) and grabbed some momentum for the Pac-12 Tournament coming up in Las Vegas.

By winning for the first time in Berkeley since 2008 — this time before 11,977 screaming fans — Stanford ended the Golden Bears' seven-game winning streak and and hopes the Bears (12-6, 20-10) had of a co-championship.

Cal had gotten some help in its quest for a possible co-title when host Washington State upset UCLA earlier in the evening and knocked the Bruins out of a first-place tie with Oregon. Stanford, however, ruined any further hopes by the Bears as Chasson Randle scored 20 points and Josh Huestis added 18 as the Cardinal completed a season sweep of Cal.

Aaron Bright chipped in 16 points for Stanford, which also received a terrific all-around effort from Dwight Powell (11 points , six rebounds, four assists) despite playing through foul trouble.

"Well, you know, offensively I think we've been playing pretty well at times and tonight was no different," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. "Our guys came out and executed the offense well. We spaced the floor like we typically do. We have some versatile players and try to play to our strengths. They're a very good defensive team. I think with us, when Dwight's playing the way he's playing and Chasson as well, we're able to disrupt a lot of defenses."

Added Cal coach Mike Montgomery, the former Cardinal head man: "Stanford played very well. You've got to give credit where credit is due . . . They played with a lot of confidence. When they shoot the ball well, they're good. From our perspective, we made a lot of defensive mistakes that allowed them open shots. We tried to focus on defending the three-point line and obviously we didn't do that with them making nine threes. We tended to leave people when I'm not sure we needed to leave people.

"Stanford causes a lot of problems with the matchups that they have. There do not have pure low post guys, so they spread the floor and they drive. We kind of fell prey to that, where we turned our heads, lost our man, and then they shot it in. Each time we made a mistake, we paid a price for it and they made shots."

The game was stopped for nearly 10 minutes late in the second half after players from both teams began pushing and shoving one another during a break in play, after Allen Crabbe had grabbed Bright, who was sitting on the floor with a rebound.

Six players received technical fouls during the melee, two others were ejected for leaving the bench and a combined three assistant coaches (including Stanford's Mark Madsen) from the two schools also were ejected with barely five minutes left to play.

Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, both of whom were involved in the fracas, each finished with 24 points.

"I don't really know what happened," said Dawkins. "It was a scrum and Aaron got the ball on the ground and was trying to call a timeout and of course, things kind of escalated from there. I think both teams were just playing very hard and emotions were running high. It's a rivalry game and I think a lot on the line for both teams. It's one of those things that happens, but I don't think anybody did anything flagrant or below the belt. I think it was just guys playing hard and it's unfortunate. Everyone rushed out on the floor, from a coaches standpoint, just trying to make sure nothing happened, and the rules say only the head coach can go out on the court."

Stanford shot 49.0 percent overall, excelling primarily from three-point territory (9 of 17) and the free-throw line (26 for 30). California shot 50.0 percent, but was just 3 of 12 from long distance and 15 of 18 from the charity stripe.

The Cardinal led 34-31 at halftime, with the first half featuring three ties and seven lead changes.

Stanford then exploded to start the second half, embarking on a 24-8 scoring run that resulted in its largest lead of 58-39 following a jumper from Bright with 12:33 remaining.

Stanford is now 15-8 in March games under Dawkins. That includes seven in a row, dating to last year's NIT title run. Next up is the Pac-12 tourney for both teams.

"We've got our work cut out," Montgomery said. "We're never out of the woods. If you look at this conference, Stanford coming into this thing was a ninth-place team. Well, they're pretty good. You're looking at teams in lower spots that are capable of beating anybody on any given night. Stanford is no exception to that. There's nothing guaranteed with our team and there never has been. We've had some gritty wins and made some plays at the end and we didn't do that today."

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