Rob's Bear Log: The real SuperBowl

I mean. The REAL Superb owl.

Editor’s Note: Let me start by saying, I’m NOT stealing Nick’s Monday morning column slot. As I write this recap at 12:38AM, it has just dawned on me that it COULD look like that which it’s not. Or you’re just wondering where Nick is. In fact, I had Nick’s blessing to take the slot. Nick has taken the weekend off and with the conference scheduling this game to be RIGHT BEHIND the Superbowl, it made no sense to publish this on Sunday night. So. We moved it to Monday, so Nick get’s a break and he can write something for later in the week or next Monday and you all get to kick off your Monday hang-over reading about us losing to Stanford on Superbowl Sunday.

Look. I know what you’re thinking. You thought this was going to be a summary of the Superbowl, talking about how there’s no Cal players in it or some spin to talk about the game in a Cal lens. WELL. PREPARE TO BE DISAPPOINTED. YOU HAVE BEEN CLICK-BAITED. I’m not sure if I’m ACTUALLY doing click-baiting correctly, but you’re here and you’re reading these words, so might as well read about the Cal-Stanford rubberband match that tipped off WHILE, Super Bowl LV was still being played.

The game started off great. The Bears matched Stanford in terms of runs and scoring. It looked like it was going to be a competitive game. To Mark Fox’s credit, he said he would look at tweaking or tuning the offense, after its decline since the Arizona road trip, and he did just that. The Bears looked to get out and run after rebound and trying to push the tempo if they could get an effective look. That threw Stanford some issues because they looked unprepared to see us push the pace. He also used the post as a facilitating point to create open looks for 3 on the weak side of the defense from the blocks. It actually looked to be something that could work. The only issue was that Stanford looked to double Andre Kelly in the post as soon as he caught the ball, and with Andre our most able passer out of the post was overwhelmed by the pressure. He turned the ball over trying to reset to the top of the key when he had no angle on those passes. Stanford also keyed on the look we were trying to create by sneaking out the baseline picker to the weakside corner and swinging the ball out of the post to that corner 3. Instead of rotating to the top of the key, they would gamble on the pass going to the corner by switching on the baseline picker then having a short step to close out on the corner 3. Andre was our best player during the game in Berkeley, earlier in the week, and Stanford had decided to take him away and force us to win by shoot over the top. The only issue is our perimeter scoring had no more of Michael’s Secret Stuff (where my Space Jam fans at?!) since the trip to the desert last week. They expected for our perimeter shooting to be nonexistent again from players not named Matt Bradley. So they zeroed in on the post and it slowly started to work. The Bears and the Cardinal would stay even for most of the first half changing leads all up until a 13-2 run in the final 4:02 of the first half. Capping it all off with a buzzer-beater second attempt off an offensive rebound.

The second half looked like Stanford was going to run away with the game, ballooning an 11 point lead to at one point a 19 point lead. It wasn’t the prettiest basketball by any means. I mean, just look at this stretch.

4 missed field goals. 1 blocked shot. 2 fouls. 2 missed free throws. 1 turnover. All within about a 70-second span. That’s not even the most facepalm segment. With the Bears down 16 and 5:45 to play in the game, this happens.

Missed 3. Offensive Rebound. Missed 3. Offensive Rebound. Missed 3. Defensive rebound, BUT turnover. BUT Layup blocked. Bryce Wills would make a layup to push the lead back up to 18 after that sequence. That kind of felt like the nail in the coffin, but…(once again) The Bear will not quit! The Bear will not die! Fox moved away from pushing the tempo and trying to get out in transition but came back to in the final minutes after Stanford had gotten a little bit too comfortable with the lead and forgotten it was JUST ABOUT the time for our 3PT shooting to trend back up to our season mean.

With 3:32 left in the game, the Bears mounted a zombie scare on The Farm in Palo Alto. WE ARE ALIVEEEEE!

Andre knocks down 2 free throws, 16 point difference.

Betley makes a 3 off a turnover, 13 point difference.

Stanford answers with a dunk, 15 point difference.

AND HERE COME THE BEARS.

Hyder knocks down 2 free throws, 13 point difference.

Betley lays it in, 11 point difference.

Hyder lays it in, 9 point difference.

Grant for 3, 6 point difference.

14-2 run in 2:39.

6 point game with 53 seconds left in the game.

It was game on. The Bears would actually shrink the lead down to 5 with 21 seconds left from a straightaway Hyder 3. The follow up to the 3 after Murrell hit 2 free throws for Stanford, was slightly underwhelming. They trapped Hyder in the half-court forcing him to pick up his dribble and pass to Grant who might have had a decent look from 3, but his mind looked already set on swinging the ball to Matt on the wing. Stanford didn’t bite on the chance that Grant would shoot the 3 and chose not to rotate over by they kept a man on Matt. Matt would dribble, jab, step back for a TOUGH look from 3 that would miss. The shot took 9 seconds to develop and with only 19 seconds left on the clock, ate up too much time with that extra pass trying to get it to Matt after the trap had occurred on Hyder. Bears would foul, with O’Connell knocking down 1/2, and Hyder closed it out with 2 made free throws.

So let’s talk about the game as a whole. Credit’s first.

-Mark Fox for realizing his offense has stalled and looking to make some tweaks and adjustments and not wholesale changes.

-The Players for not quitting and taking advantage of some VERY lackadaisical play by Stanford, after thinking they could cruise to a win with a 19 point lead.

-Joel Brown with his best game as a Cal Bear, being aggressive on the offensive end. (with what I believe tied his career-high 12 points)

-Jarred Hyder with his best game as a Cal Bear as well, 13 points with 6-6 from the free-throw line.

-Matt Bradley for moving up in the All-Time scoring list at Cal to #34

-The Pac-12 for scheduling this game to start in the final 3 minutes of the Superbowl.

Now the…. what’s the opposite of credit? That.

-Mark Fox for realizing his offense has stalled in the game and not having any counters ready in the off-chance they zeroed in on the post.

-Stanford and Jerrod Haase, falling asleep at the wheel of a 19 point lead to get us back into the game in a 3-minute span from a barrage of shots. And not our coaching methodically keeping us clawing back into the deficit over the course of the second half.

-Zero defensive model or gameplan to limit their dominance in the paint. 26 of their made shots were 2s. 22 of those made shots were in the paint. Stanford is the #1 best 2PT shooting team in the conference, and the #11 team at 3s. Only 29% of their shots come from 3PT land. Statistically, it was clear as day where they want to score from, but instead, we tried to play a balanced defense which just leaked lanes to the basket from even the simplest of pick and rolls.

-Stanford giving us a little shimmer of light by being so loose with their lead, then snatching it away as if they wanted us to feel more darkness in the depths of that high school gym.

-The Pac-12 for scheduling this game to start in the final 3 minutes of the Superbowl.

I have more to say about what’s transpired this season, where we go from here, what I think is our doomsday scenario, and why this is playing out exactly like my Cal book of Revelations reads, but we save that for another day. For now, we try to rebuild our shattered stained windows of former glory and look to hope for better days.

California Rising.