STANFORD - THE REMATCHIn the first meeting, Cal waxed Stanford on their home floor for the first time in fourteen tries. That historic victory was made possible by Ayinde Ubaka's 26 point performance - his best game as a Golden Bear.
Since that game, Stanford has made dramatic improvements while Cal has grown even thinner with injuries and illness limiting the effectiveness of Eric Vierneisel, Ubaka and now Theo Robertson. In this preview we'll break down what went right for Cal against the Cardinal last month, and examine the chances for a series sweep tomorrow at Haas Pavilion.
As noted above, Cal beat the Cardinal at Maples because Ubaka and his teammates dominated the Stanford backcourt, outscoring them 41-20. As expected, Stanford controlled the boards, pulling down 50 rebounds to Cal's 32. However, Stanford missed several easy put backs and les freres Lopez were a combined 7-20 from the floor. Brook Lopez only played 16 minutes and was generally ineffective. Anthony Goods shoot poorly from three (2-7) and the Cardinal as a team were only 3-16 beyond the arc.
So what has changed for Stanford? For starters, Brook Lopez (right) is reasonably healthy. He's playing 30+ minutes per game, and he's become much more effective, scoring 20 points against Gonzaga and 18 against USC with a school-record 12 blocked shots.
Trent Johnson has shuffled his starting lineup, going with both Lopez brothers, Lawrence Hill, Fred Washington and Anthony Goods. There's not a true point guard in that lineup, but the Cardinal have still done an OK job getting the ball inside the Lopez brothers. Mitch Johnson, the former starting point, is now the first man off the bench. He continues to underwhelm, and the Cardinal are a less effective offensive team with him on the floor.
Keys to the Game - Cal offense
When both bigs are on the floor, Stanford will often zone - and they'll likely do that against Cal, whose #4 and #5 men can run and shoot from outside. So the recipe for Cal's success is pretty simple - attack the zone effectively with cutters to the high post, and shoot well from the perimeter. We've seen Cal do the latter - the Bears are shooting a respectable 37% from three this year. However, we haven't seen them dissect a zone effectively all year.
Ubaka (left) needs to return to form; according to Braun he was still feeling the effects of the flu as late as Wednesday. Vierneisel doesn't figure to play much, but we could certainly use him from the outside if Stanford does indeed run lots of zone.
Keys to the Game - Cal defense
On the defensive end, Cal will need to do two things: 1) play effective pressure defense to complicate entry passes to the post, and 2) limit Stanford's opportunities on the offensive glass. That's a tall order, even with Cal's recent improvements in rebounding.
Taylor Harrison is another key. (Did we just write that?) Harrison got USC's Taj Gibson out of his game by inducing a technical foul in Saturday's loss to the Trojans. Look for him to pester the Lopez brothers tomorrow in the hopes of luring them into foul trouble.