STANFORD — Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who for 18 seasons skippered the Stanford men’s basketball team, knew exactly what made the rival Cardinal a dangerous foe.
It was Stanford’s depth.
But Stanford’s bench, despite outscoring Cal 27-4, alone didn’t propel the underdog Cardinal to a 75-70 win Sunday at Maples Pavilion, spoiling Cal’s bid for a shared Pac-12 Conference title and a No. 1 seeding for the this week’s conference tourney.
Rough play had just as much to do with it.
“To Stanford’s credit, they came and were extremely physical early and they got into our heads, if nothing else,” Montgomery said, noting the numerous missed layups and misfired shots. “We looked nervous, played nervous, acted nervous.”
Despite Stanford’s high foul tally of 24, freshman Chasson Randle and senior Andrew Zimmermann scored 17 and 13 points, respectively.
“As a competitor, you don’t ever want to lose at home, or anywhere,” Zimmermann said. “And to know that they came in thinking that it meant more to them, as a program, it meant a lot to us to.”
Stanford decked Cal early, jumping out to a 15-point lead in the first half. And despite a good scoring day for Bears Allen Crabbe (20 points), Harper Kamp (19) and David Kravish (13), the Stanford defense was able to limit Jorge Gutierrez to only eight points.
“He’s really fighting demons right now, and has just not been able to get much done,” said Montgomery, who took Gutierrez out after a technical foul in the first half. “He defended extremely well. But he gets himself in trouble and gets frustrated, and we need him.”
Despite its woes, Cal was able to stop the figurative bleeding, reducing Stanford’s lead to five just before the half. And with 1:11 left in regulation, Cal reduced the Cardinal lead to two. But the Golden Bears failed to do anything more than that.
“We missed three free throws, we fumbled out of bounds once ... those are things that at that stage of the game, had we made those plays, the pressure shifts a little bit,” Montgomery said. “But we didn’t make those plays.”
A dejected Kamp pondered why his team played “soft.”
“This is not acceptable,” he said. “We have to put aside whatever else is going on right now. We’ve worked too hard to let this slide.”
Both teams, now, will have to focus on the looming conference tourney.
“There’s a lot of parity in our conference,” Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We look at every team as a potential team that can win it. We have to face them that way every time we go out on the court and play.”