Bears Seeing Red for Regular Season Finale
Friday, March 4, 2011
Category: Sports > Winter > Basketball (Men's)
Just one game over .500, Stanford is by no means an upper-echelon Pac-10 team.
Still, facing the Cardinal in Saturday's 4 p.m. regular season finale at Haas Pavilionwill be something of a measuring stick for the Cal basketball team.
Few Pac-10 teams have changed more over the course of conference play than the Bears (16-13, 9-8 in the Pac-10), who opened up 2011 with a humbling 82-68 defeat across the Bay. Stanford (15-14, 7-10) led by as many as 17 and never trailed in the contest, handing Cal its lone double-digit conference loss to a team not named Washington.
Looking back to the first meeting against Johnny Dawkins' club shows just how far the Bears have progressed over two months.
"We're a completely different team," junior Harper Kamp said. "As the season's gone on, we've definitely started to click. Guys are a little more comfortable than they used to be, as far as our game goes."
The differences are stark, indeed.
At Maples Pavilion on Jan. 2, Brandon Smith had yet to establish himself as Cal's primary handler; shuffling between Smith, the now-departed Gary Franklin and Jorge Gutierrez at the point guard spot, the Bears turned in an erratic performance on offense in Stanford. During a stretch of eight second-half possessions, Cal gave the turned the ball over five times to ground any kind of comeback effort.
Similarly, Allen Crabbe had yet to find his role.
Now a go-to scorer and the team's top outside shooter, Crabbe was blanked in the second half against the Cardinal after seven quick points to start the game. The freshman guard has had just two single-digit performances since, and is coming off his best two-game stretch of the season: a combined 45 points, including 10 3-pointers, during a pair of comebacks up in Oregon.
"Allen is definitely coming into his own," Kamp said. "From a personal standpoint, I know it helps me out. Guys can't collapse inside on me, they have to respect guys like Allen as a shooter."
For all of their improvement on offense, the Bears can also exact some defensive redemption on Saturday, after allowing Stanford to shoot 72.2 percent after intermission the first time around.
Jeremy Green poured in 21 for the Cardinal in January, including five 3-pointers, while 6-foot-9 forward Dwight Powell burned Kamp for 20 - 13 came after the break.
"We definitely didn't play well against them last time," Kamp said in. "They pretty much took it to us, and we're gonna have a little chip on our shoulders.
One player looking for an extra-special performance is Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who will be making his final regular season appearance at Haas. After fighting injuries for much of his brief career, the junior college transfer from Portland, Ore., has stepped up this season in a big way - providing reliable double-digit scoring in the low post and a solid rebounding presence for an undersized Cal squad.
"It's crazy, time went by real fast," said Sanders-Frison, who will be joined by his parents and older sister on Saturday afternoon. "(This experience) has passed my expectations. It's just been a great chapter of my life, it's meant a lot for me. I've grown a lot here."
Ed Yevelev covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]
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