Stanford (11-7, 2-3 Pac-12) avoided a 1-4 start to Pac-12 play by defeating Cal 69-59 on Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion. Neither team shot the ball well (both below 36 percent), but Stanford capitalized on its opportunities from the free throw line and outplayed the Bears (10-7, 2-3) down the stretch to secure the win.
Here are our takeaways from Maples Pavilion following the Cardinal victory.
Free throws make a difference: The major statistical disparity between the Cardinal and Bears was in the free throw category. While both teams shot in the mid-30 percent range from the floor, Cal had seven turnovers to the Card's six, and Stanford outrebounded Cal by a slim 39-35 margin, Stanford had more than double the free throw attempts than Cal did.
Moreover, the Card took advantage of its opportunities from the line, shooting free throws at an 80.6 percent clip.
"I think it's the way we were able to get the free throws," Dawkins said. "I think our kids did a good job of playing with some aggression. I thought we attacked the basket well. We got the ball inside and got ourselves in apposition to be fouled, and I thought that worked out well for us."
Keying on Crabbe: Cal's leading scorer Allen Crabbe, who entered play scoring at a clip of 20.1 points per game, did score 14 points on 6-13 shooting, but tallied 12 of those 14 points in the second half, and several after the game's outcome was essentially decided.
The defensive effort of Stanford's double redshirt forward Andy Brown keyed the Card's defensive effort on Crabbe.
"You're not going to stop Allen," Dawkins said. "He's a terrific player. He's one of the best players in our league, of course. And I really just challenged Andy Brown to defend him and of course he had help, but at the end of the day taking that challenge on and being a veteran and saying hey, I'm going to try to limit his touches as much as possible, I thought that was good for us. Everyone I think executed the game play well."
Gage locked in: John Gage came off the bench to give the Card a boost. Gage made all four of his three point attempts and finished with 14 points (on 4-5 shooting from the floor) in 19 minutes.
"It was a tremendous lift not only just scoring but John Gage three-pointers are worth a lot for our team," said Dwight Powell, who scored a team-high 17 points. "It really gets us going, especially when he gets it going, we just feed off his energy. It's good for the whole team."
Added Dawkins: "We expect John to take those shots. John's a shooter for us. He stretches defenses and he did that tonight."
Allen's emergence: At the beginning of the season, Christian Sanders, not Rosco Allen, was the Stanford freshman playing the most minutes. That has changed in recent weeks. Allen played 15 minutes in the Card's victory, and has been a regular presence in conference play.
Today was a perfect example why Allen has earned more minutes. He had six points, seven rebounds (the third highest total on the team), and added a block for good measure. Additionally, Allen didn't commit a single turnover and played under control, often areas where inexperienced players struggle.
"I thought Rosco was terrific," Dawkins said. "I though he did a great job for us as well."
Stanford received significant contributions from all three of its bench players to receive playing time. In addition to Allen and Gage, guard Gabriel Harris scored six points and added three assists.
"I thought our bench of was huge," Dawkins said. "I'm really proud of John Gage because he really stepped up. He found some openings in our defense and our guys did a good job of finding him, but our entire bench was good. I thought everyone that came in the game gave us great contributions."
Finding a third scorer to complement Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell - in this case, Gage - was critical to the Cardinal victory, and will remain of paramount importance for the rest of the season, Dawkins said.
"That's what we've been missing this year," Dawkins said. "We've been missing that third guy to come in and get double digits and help contribute."