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Cal Men's Basketball Crushes Stanford on Senior Day
Jordan Shepherd's 28 points is almost enough by itself in a 53-39 Cal win.
Over the last five years, Cal has played 97 Pac-12 games. Of those 97, only 22 have ended in wins.
Delightfully, hilariously, wonderfully, six of those 22 Pac-12 wins have come against the Stanford Cardinal.
Cal hasn’t beaten any other team more the 4 times in the same stretch. Heck, there are four Pac-12 teams that Cal hasn’t beaten even once over the last five years. And yet not a single season has gone by without a win over Stanford.
These wins over Stanford have come in all shapes and sizes. There’s “massive 2nd half comeback from major deficit” wins:
There’s “Cal pulls away late in Las Vegas as Stanford’s will collapses and their season ends in ignominy” wins:
And then there’s “we kicked your ass on both ends of the court for 40 minutes” wins:
What type of game was this season’s win over Stanford? Very much a “we kicked your ass on both ends of the court for 40 minutes,” but with an extra heaping of stylish humiliation:
Stanford’s highlight of the game? A 7-0 run to start the 2nd half that was answered by a Cal 7-0 run. Cal’s highlight of the game? A stretch of 13 possessions in which Stanford didn’t score, part of a 23-2 run that turned a game that was supposed to be tight into a laugher. Stanford’s offense was so bad that Cal could have held the ball on offense and taken a series of intentional shot clock violations for the final 15 minutes of the game and won. Meanwhile, Cal paraded the axe around the building, a bevy of heroes from the past were in attendance, a massive and boisterous contingent of Cal students chanted ‘F#$% You Stanford"!” and the basketball team did disrespectful things like nutmeg bounce passes that led to dunks:
And disrespectful things like shoving seven Stanford shots back into their faces:
And disrespectful things like draining insane circus shots while the shot clock buzzer sounds off:
It was a joyous throwback game, a reminder of the kind of entertainment and fun Cal basketball regularly provided from 2009-2017.
It was senior day, and this game marked the last time Grant Anticevich, Jordan Shepherd, Makale Foreman, and Logan Alters will play at Haas Pavilion. Andre Kelly was also honored, though he has another year of eligibility he could elect to use.
And at the risk of romanticizing senior day, it did feel like one of those games where one team came out with the effort, willpower, and intensity needed to win, while the other team very much did not. That particularly stood out when Cal was on defense, where the Bears were cutting off every driving lane, holding firm in the paint, getting their hands on the basketball, and forcing Stanford into a bunch of bad shots.
For their part, Stanford was passive, sloppy, and willing to settle for bad shots. It was a combination made in heaven for Cal fans. Cal’s offense started hot before cooling down, and by the end of the game the Bears had put up a far-from-scintillating 0.95 points/possession. But when you’re holding your opponent to 15-51 shooting from the field, you don’t need to do a ton else to win easily.
The star of the game was of course Jordan Shepherd, who had his jump shot going from everywhere on the court on his way to 28 points in what might go down as his best game as a collegiate. There was a running storyline about whether or not he would outscore Stanford by himself, but sadly a late Stanford scoring outburst allowed the entire team to hold on for the ‘win.’
If you came into this game knowing nothing about the rest of the season (or the last 5 years generally), you could have been forgiven for thinking that Cal MBB is in a healthy, happy place. The students showed up in force, fans were loud and engaged, and the players full of energy and joy. Just look at how much this meant to the team:
The saving grace of the Mark Fox era (and by far the biggest difference from the Wyking Jones era) is that Fox has kept his team engaged and positive despite the many, many setbacks. From an effort and personality standpoint, these Bears are as fun to root for as a 12-17 (5-13) team could ever hope to be. And that trait has always been most obvious against Stanford, a team that regularly doesn’t display the same thing under Jerod Haase.
In the grand scheme of things, this win doesn’t mean a ton. It might end up being the difference between 10th and 11th place in the conference, as Cal has now crept back ahead of Utah in the conference standings.
Emotionally, it means plenty. If it weren’t for wins over Stanford, there would hardly have been any joy since Ivan Raab declared for the draft and the rest of the team transferred back in 2017.
There’s still season to play. Cal travels to the desert for games against ASU and Arizona before the Pac-12 tournament. But before the season winds to a close, we’ve been given one game of joy. Maybe that one game isn’t enough for some. But we all knew exactly what we were getting into:
Allow wins over Stanford to keep you alive like a snake that only needs to eat once a month. Is this just a chance to reflect on the fact that Cal has five wins over Stanford under Wyking Jones and Mark Fox? Mostly, yes. But honestly those wins over Stanford made me so inordinately happy, I was cackling for days.
I don’t know how long I’ll stay full, but that was a delicious meal. Damn right I’ll be cackling for days.