Here's a thought exercise for you: What kind of basketball team loses four games out of five, with the solitary win coming against the #1 team in the country?
Factually, that team is Cal. But what is it about this team that allows for the above statement to be true? Don't get me wrong. UCLA, Arizona State and Stanford are all above average Pac-12 teams. But two of those loses were at home and there's nothing that really explains a loss to USC.
Except that this Cal team can't find a way to play with consistent effort. I'll just link back to the last game recap I wrote up (BTW, did anything interesting happen since then?) in which I collected Monty quotes that criticized the effort his players gave. Now we have more:
If we play hard, we can beat anybody. if don't, then we won't...veterans have to compete and they have to lead
You remember that awesome video from the locker room after the Arizona game? The one where Monty tells them that beating Arizona is a big deal, but only if they 'back it up?' The Bears didn't. At least, they certainly didn't last night. And there are only so many chances left to do it.
I just don't understand how you can't get up for a home rivalry game with another good crowd, against a team that the Bears actually seem to dislike. The same team that has ruined conference title aspirations two years ago, the same team that the Bears brawled with last year and nearly brawled with this year. People talk about a 'letdown' game, but if that was going to be a thing, Stanford - this particular Stanford team - should have been the perfect follow up game.
And the Bears fell behind by 10 points after only seven minutes, and by 18 points later in the first half. I don't care that Stanford was nearly perfect from behind the arc to start the game, because Cal's dysfunctional offense was a bigger issue than anything Stanford did.
For whatever it's worth, I actually think Cal didn't play particularly bad defensively. Stanford didn't get a ton going inside, and a healthy portion of their points game from the free throw line when Cal started fouling because they had to up their defensive pressure in a vain attempt to come back. Cal forced a decent number of turnovers against a team that rarely coughs the ball up, and they did a not awful job on the defensive glass. It wasn't a defensive effort that would win the game by itself, but if Cal had played a semblance of offense it might have been enough.
Unfortunately, Cal's offense was broken the entire game. 13 turnovers is a huge number against a Stanford team that does nothing to force turnovers. Cal just threw the ball away on iso drives because that's all the offense had today. The only bright side was a solid game from Kravish, 5 minutes of Cobbs hero ball to end the first half, and a decent stretch from Ty to begin the 2nd half.
Richard Solomon was completely invisible even before he got in foul trouble, and Cal's freshmen wing duo of Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews are collectively as ice cold as two decent shooters could be. Taken together, Solomon, Mathews and Bird combined for more turnovers than field goals.
DEPRESSING CHART OF MISERY
It's really rather rare for Monty teams to lose because of fouling and turnovers. It's an indication of what kind of night everybody had. Before the game I said that winning the fouling battle inside was going to be huge. Sure enough, Solomon and Kravish were mired in constant foul trouble while Dwight Powell didn't pick up a single foul. Complain all you want above the refs, that number is an indication of how much Cal let Powell and the rest of Stanford's interior players control the paint. If Powell could actually finish more shots this game would have been even uglier.
Cal has now brought an inconsistent (at best) effort into seven of their last eight games. At this point, they are what they are, which is a team with the ability to beat pretty much anybody in the country and the lack of focus to lose to most anybody as well.
I desperately hope that they somehow find that focus on come close to maximizing their own abilities, but with the regular season now nearly 75% over, there's not much reason to expect anything to change. Welcome to the most frustrating team of the Montgomery era.