On Friday night, the Cal Bears stopped Stanford’s two main scorers, Casey Jacobsen and Curtis Borchardt, but still lost by 20 points. Sunday night, the Bears stopped just about everyone the Cardinal threw at them, breaking a 10-game losing streak to their rivals with a 68-54 win at Haas Pavilion.
Forward Ryan Forehan-Kelly hit two key 3-pointers down the stretch as Cal (10-2 overall, 1-1 Pac-10) led for the last 17 minutes of the game. Forehan-Kelly led the Bears with 19 points, while freshman forward Amit Tamir scored 10.
Jacobsen did manage to score a game-high 20 points, but was just 4-of-13 from the floor in his second straight lackluster performance after scoring a season-low 7 points on Friday. Jacobsen was the only Stanford player to score in double figures on Sunday.
Although they led for all but one possession of the second half, the Bears didn’t pull away until the final five minutes. Forehan-Kelly hit his team’s first 3-pointer of the game to make the score 54-47, and point guard Shantay Legans hit another with the shot clock running down on the following possession for a 10-point lead.
“Once you taste blood, you have to work even harder,” Forehan-Kelly said.
The Cardinal (8-3, 1-1) would never get closer than six points the rest of the way, and Cal’s fans rushed the court as time ran down in a long-awaited victory.
The Bears started hitting from the outside just in time. Including another Forehan-Kelly bomb late in the game, they hit their final three 3-pointers after starting the game 0-for-14 from behind the stripe.
Sunday was the first time the first time the Bears have emerged victorious over Stanford since Jan. 29, 1997.
The game turned just before halftime. With the score tied 26-26 with a minute left in the half, backup point guard A.J. Diggs went in among the tall trees to pull down an offensive board and get the putback. Stanford freshman Josh Childress got free but clanged a dunk off the back iron, and Tamir made a layup. Legans then swiped the ball from Tony Giovacchini and found Forehan-Kelly for a reverse layup at the buzzer to give Cal a 32-26 lead at the break.
“That six-point swing just before halftime was critical,” Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery said. “I felt we should have been ahead at that point, but instead we went in behind.”
The Cardinal tied the score at 34-34 after halftime, but Cal went back up 43-36 on baskets by Dennis Gates, Brian Wethers and Tamir. And just when Stanford started to get hot, cutting the deficit to one point on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jacobsen and Chris Hernandez, the Bears got a lift from two walk-ons. Forward Conor Famulener, making a rare appearance in a meaningful spot due to an injury to Solomon Hughes, scored on a backdoor cut, then got a steal at the other end.
When Stanford got within a point once again, it was Diggs who came through. He pressured Giovacchini into a 10-second backcourt violation, then picked Julius Barnes’ pocket and converted a 3-point play on the other end. He didn’t stop there, forcing Giovacchini into a bad pass that Wethers intercepted. While Diggs was credited with just two steals in the game, he forced at least four turnovers in his 13 minutes of action.
“A.J. is a catalyst for us. He’s aggressive on the ball, and his energy level is phenomenal,” Braun said. “He helped turn this game around for us.”
Sunday’s win was the first over Stanford for every player on the Cal squad. Throw in Stanford’s seven-game winning streak on the football field, and it’s been a while since Cal had anything to hang its hat on against its most bitter rival.
“It feels good,” Wethers said. “We’ve wanted this for a long time.”