After two straight losses to Utah and Colorado, Cal returns home to face struggling Stanford

Stanford has lost three of its last four games since defeating Cal 77-71 at Maples Pavilion, and the Bears have barely fared much better, downing Arizona and Arizona State to remain undefeated at home, but dropping back-to-back games at Colorado and Utah. The Cardinal and Bears tip off at 1 pm on ESPN2.

California Head Coach Cuonzo Martin 

The Bears (14-8, 4-5 in Pac-12) face off against Stanford (11-9, 4-5) on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Haas Pavilion, on ESPN2, each looking to get out of a funk. Cal is 13-0 at home, true, but the Bears have come down mightily from a high of beating then-No. 11 Arizona and Arizona State in back-to-back games, with consecutive defeats at Colorado and Utah.

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On the 13-0 home start, and the 1-8 start on the road: "I think when you look at some games, the turnovers, getting key stops in key situations, I thought we did a great job defensively, especially during the first half at Colorado. We just couldn't captialize offensively, and make plays, despite them going 2-for-20 on the floor, you look at the scoreboard, you're up 15 points, it didn't happen. They got their heads up and it became a ballgame. I just think, with confidence, being consistent, being sound on both ends of the floor, executing what we're trying to on both ends of the floor, and eventually, it adds up. If you're down, you get back in the game, and now, you've got to get a key stop, get a key basket. Those sorts of things that happen, I just think it's the growth and constantly going though it." "The frustrating thing for me is, of course you want to win every game. When you see how hard they practice, how hard they compete in practice, and the things they do in practice, it's only in the game when you hit those tough patches. You can't get a time out for five minutes and talk about it. You don't get a water break and shoot some free throws, 'OK, let's regroup.' You're in a live situation, and you have to learn to go through it and learn from it."

Dramatic split between home and road, what's the difference: "I just think it's mental. It's mentally going through it. It's mental toughness across the board, not just one or two guys, or three or four guys. It's just mental toughness, and we always talk about just being sound, when you have to get stops and continue the scouting report from start to finish, complete the box out, execute the play offensively, follow through on your shot, crash the glass if you're supposed to -- just consistently to the game, until it's over. If you do those things, you have a chance to be successful. At home, there's a comfort level. It doesn't guarantee you a win, but it's just a level of comfort, when you hit a tough patch. It's your home. We have to have the mentality that we play the same all the time. We try to coach that, but I just think it's a matter of going through it."

How much have you grown since the last Stanford game: "Some of the same things, just the consistency. When you practice, especially when you practice at home, there's a level of confidence that you're playing with. The guys, to their credit, they play extremely hard, they work hard in practice, they do the things you ned to do in practice. Now, your carryover has to be better on the road. You also have to be consistent at home."

"From the last time we played Stanford, Stanford played well, they played aggressive, but they also took the game as a rivalry game, in their mind. The guys, to their credit, they play extremely hard, they work hard in practice, they do the things you ned to do in practice. Now, your carryover has to be better on the road. We're trying to win the game. We're trying to protect our home court. That's how they play, and they won the ballgame." In Jaylen Brown's first game playing at the point, he had 7 assists, but since then, he's had four assists (2 per game) and 8 turnovers (4 per game, was averaging 3.1 per game before that): "I don't know if it's a concern. It's a concern that he's turning the ball over, whoever turns it over, but again, he's not a point guard. He's played that position for us to give us an advantage, but I don't consider him to be a point guard. You always want to take care of the basketball if you're the power forward or the center, taking care of the basketball, being under control, executing what you need to do, even handling the ball. He understands what we're trying to do offensively, but you still have to take care of the ball, whatever position he's playing."

Since Sam Singer's starting debut (8 assists against Arizona State), he's gone 6-of-17 from the field, the most shots he's taken in a three-game span this seas, while going 0-of-2 from three and tallying six assists in three games. Have teams adjusted to him, and not letting him penetrate; rather, they want to let him take a shot: "I just think it's the scouting report, now. The original piece of game plan or game film, it was 15 minutes' worth, and in some cases, you watch it and Tyrone Wallace is on the floor, so you had both of those guys facilitating and running the offense. It was very effective. Now, you've got 30-plus minutes and he's a game-plan guy. Now, you approach it differently."

"Sam's just being aggressive, being assertive, doing what we try to do. My biggest concern was Sam's really defending at a high level, about defending without fouling. Sam has been aggressive and assertive, in executing what we're trying to do. My biggest concern with Sam is defending at a high level without fouling, more than anything, because he can still facilitate the offense. If he scores five points, 10 points or 15 points, as long as he's running the team, then he's effective." Has Stanford improved: "I think they have. I thought when they played at Colorado, Colorado shot the ball very well, from the three-point line, and then, when they played at Utah, you look at the final score, and I don't think that was a true indication of how the game was played. I thought they battled in that game, had some fouls here, came up short there, Utah made a run, made a big basket, and you foul late in the game, but I thought they played pretty well at Utah. The score didn't show it."

Are they still a patient team: "That's what they do. They execute their offense, they're one of the better defensive teams, in my opinion, in the league, that grind you hard, they play you hard, they box out, they battle. But, they execute what they're trying to do offensively."

"Rosco [Allen] is their first option, and they're trying to get him the ball whether he's on the perimeter, attacking off the dribble. Marcus Allen drives the ball to the rim. [Michael] Humphrey has done a great job, with his stature, of just battling around the basket, making plays and facing up bigger guys, so again, they'll consistently do what they're doing, pick and shoot the ball well."

How much has sophomore Dorian Pickens improved? Against Cal last time out, Pickens went 4-of-10 from the field, 2-of-4 from three and 4-of-5 from the free throw line, with four rebounds and a steal: "I think he's a good player. He was a freshman, so there's growth when you go from a freshman to a sophomore. I think a lot of guys really make jumps. I didn't see him in high school, so it's hard for me to gauge the jumps, but as a freshman, I thought he was a good player, and I thought it would take time."

What does he do: "He can shoot the ball, and he's also, I wouldn't consider him a catch-and-shoot basketball player last year, as a freshman, but now, he's able to get strong enough to attack off the dribble and make plays , come off the ball screen. When you can shoot the ball, you're always a threat, because people have to really identify you, bigs have to close out heavy, when you can shoot the ball from the three-point line." Plays better once they get behind: "I just think they have the ability to fight. That's what they show, more than anything. I don't think anybody wants to get down, and say, 'Oh, we'll see how this works.' I just think they have the ability to fight, and on the road, when the score is even, or you're up four or five, down four or five, it's the execution, getting the ball where it needs to go, and understanding that if the ball's in this guy's hands, let's ride him until the wheels fall off, and really reading and understanding that part of the game."

"I think what we have to do a better job of on the road is getting the ball inside, and that's not necessarily to Ivan. It can be to Jaylen in the post, our bigs Kam (Kameron Rooks) and King (Kingsley Okoroh), but get the ball inside, because you have to relieve that defense when you get the ball inside. It can't be everything on the perimeter, and then all of the sudden, late in the game, whe you try to go inside, it's a hard thing to do. We have to consistently go inside-outside."

Development of Ivan Rabb and Brown from the start of practice to now: "A good job. You're talking about guys that are playing 30 minutes, minus being in foul situations, and they continue to grow in every game, and they continue to get better. I think you can really see their growth in Jaylen from where he started to where he is now. Now, he turns the ball over, and earlier he was turning the ball over, just turnovers. Now, he turns the ball over, there's some action behind the turnover. Now, you're sitting there and going, 'OK, that one didn't cost us.' Earlier, there were cases where he'd turn the ball over, and it was points the other way. Those are breakdown turnovers. Now, there's a turnover, a charge here, a charge there, but there's action behind it, and you see what he's trying to do." Pressure to win all home games because of the difficulty on the road: "I think you've got to win your home games, anyway. I don't think it's you necessarily say pressure that we must win this home game. I think you have to win your home games, because that's what you should  do. I think I'd be very surprised if we don't win a road game. I haven't gone into any road game thinking, 'I can't win this game.' It's just a matter of doing what we do, so that part, I'm not as concerned about. It's just a matter of getting it done, consistently, doing the things we do from start to finish of games. I just think, with home games, that's what you're supposed to do."

Is it possible that Cal's first win on the road in Pac-12 play will change the mindset and be a breakthrough: "I'd like to think so, because it's not a case, I've been in situations where you go on the road, and you're like, 'Let's compete tonight. Let's play hard. Let's do some things to improve upon,' but not in this case. We have the personnel to win on the road. I think it's more mental than the physical part. We have to complete the message from a mental standpoint, and get it done."

How do you change that mentality, when the team has clearly shown fight in the past, just not when they need it; don't get down by 15 so you don't have to come back: "The thing we talk about is, each guy, each man has to do his part, and whatever your role is, you have to do your job. That's very important. First, it starts with, you can't be on the road and you've got 15, 16 turnovers. That has to be cut down, right there. Then, there's a lot of little bitty things that take place within a game, a key turnover here, a turnover there. The biggest thing we talk about with the turnovers, it's one thing if there's a dead ball turnover. The ball rolls out of bounds, and we re-set our defense. But, you can't have turnovers where the ball's going the other way and they're scoring two and three points. We don't want those. It changes the game, especially when you're on the road."

"The biggest thing we talk about is, every man, do your job, to the best of your abilities. It's hard to help the next guy, until you complete are able to help yourself, and hold your own weight. That's the biggest key."

How have you kept from the one-and-done fear for Brown and Rabb from being a distraction; could they stick around another year: "I don't think it's a distraction for our team and our players. I don't think they get caught up in that and I never hear guys talking about those sorts of things. Even Ivan and Jaylen, they don't talk about it. It's something we don't consume ourselves with, because like I said at the beginning of the season, for those guys, that part'll take care of itself, when it presents itself. That would just be an in-or-out, yes-or-no. I think it's that simple. I don't think it's that complicated, because they'll gather the information, and do what's best for them in making a decision. Other than that, right now, I don't know how that helps in any way, shape or form on this day. No, we don't spend a lot of time with it."

Jaylen's a unique kid, vey erudite, but when he has these turnover problems, and the disparity between road and home, how does he go about mentally and intellectually fixing what he's done wrong, and think his way out of things: "We watch film. I don't know if it's necessarily thinking outside, because it's just basketball as soon as you step on the floor. You can analyze it eight different ways, but the bottom line is, taking care of the ball. I think that's the biggest key. He watches film, he studies, he sees it, and again, he's a lot better than he was, but it's simply taking care of the ball, every possession down."

"Now, you're not sitting there, consuming yourself, like you're a robot, 'Don't turn it over, don't turn it over.' You have to play basketball. He'll have turnovers, because he makes plays. He's a guy that makes plays. That'll happen, but where your turnovers can't happen are guys that aren't playmakers. That's the biggest key. Playmakers have turnovers, because that's what they do, and defenses try to gear up to stop those guys. I expect that. It's how you turn the ball over, is the biggest key. But, again, he watches film. He studies, and he understands and he sees it, but he still has to be a basketball player, when he steps on the floor."

Kameron Rooks is playing a bit better, and rebounding better (averaging 8.7 rebounds per game over the last three games, up from his season average of 1.6), is there a change coming at that spot in the lineup, in terms of who starts (Okoroh has started the last four games, since the defeat to Stanford on Jan. 14): "I don't think so, but it could change tomorrow. As of right now, I don't think so. I think Kam's confident with what he's doing."

How has Rooks played: "Really well defensively. Again, I think Kam can score more. I think we have to do a good job of really trying to get him the ball. He has to do his part in really posting, as well as the other two big guys, being assertive in the post. In the deep post, you have to have position to make plays, but rebounding the ball, I'm very proud with seven rebounds a game. I think eventually, he can get it to 10, because he's done a great job with his conditioning. He continues to improve his hands. I'm happy with the way that Kam has rebounded."

Is it positioning and getting in peoples' ways: "I thought he did his best job, until maybe the last two and a half minutes of the Colorado game, and there's only so much I can say [about the fouls]. One of those, watching on film, you've got to keep moving, but I thought he did his best job for the minutes he played. Down the stretch, we've got to work on keeping your hands as high as you can keep them."

He has to not jump when an opponent head-fakes, because he's seven feet tall: "We spend time on it in practice, and even for Kingsley, he's on a streak of getting three fouls in the first half (he had 4 fouls in 12 minutes against the Buffaloes). Just being disciplined. In most cases, those are legitimate calls. I don't know about the first two at Colorado, the offensive foul, but he has to do a better job of stopping fouling. That's the biggest key. That's another thing: We're fouling too much. We're giving up too many points at the free throw line."

Cal is 246th in the nation with 20.5 personal fouls per game. Stanford, it must be noted, is shooting 69.5%, 175th in the nation, at the free throw line, led by Christian Sanders (19 starts in 20 games, 83.7% at the line) and Pickens' 77.6% in 20 games, and 15 starts.

More talk this week because it's a rivalry: "Oh, yeah, plus Stanford beat us. They understand it. I think that's good. But, again, I'll go back to the fact that the one thing I'll give these guys, the energy is normally at a high level in practice. They do a good job really competing. It's just a matter of, talking about road games, of character, being in it from start to finish, on the road. But, yes, they understand who we're playing against. They know what it menas." Top Stories