John Hefti/USA Today

Freshman Marcus Sheffield and the Allen Brothers Helped Stanford Hold Off Cal 77-71

Faster Pace, Relentless Attacking by the Allen Brothers, and the Ascent of a True Frosh all played starring roles in Stanford's 77-71 over Cal.

                Stanford Footballwalked into Maples and brought the Axe, the Pac-12 Championship Trophy, and the Rose Bowl Trophy, tangible evidence of an incredible season of accomplishment.  Cardinal celebs were in the house, from Condi to Plunkett to Andrew Luck.  The student section approached capacity, and they watched Stanford once more prove that it can get off the deck no matter how many times it takes.

                The need to repeatedly get off the deck is a topic for another day.  On this night, Stanford feasted on home cooking that featured a healthy dose of free throws, some real competitive fire on the backboards, welcome goofiness from Cal (who took an absurd 30 three-pointers), and the latest step up in an impressive Freshman season debut for a rising “Sous Sheff.”  To the Five Factors:








University of California















                First category is worth a first look when talking about this game.   Stanford ramped up the pace, playing  a game north of 70 possessions per team for the first time in Pac-12 play.  Yes, “SAMPLE SIZE R.J.!!!!” I hear that but I also have been calling for Stanford to ramp up the pace all season.  First off, this team has guys that can really do things in the open floor.  Secondly, a team that struggles with offensive efficiency needs as many possessions as possible to win games.

                Prior to last night, Stanford hadn’t played a game faster than 67.3 possessions per team, in Oregon State.  How’d they do in that game?  Oh, yes.  In fact, their 3 fastest paced games have been the three games they’ve won.  This is not a coincidence.   The game against Cal was a quantum leap in speed, but here’s hoping that Stanford heeds success and keeps its foot on the accelerator.

                The other big keys to the win were the final two of the Four Factors.  After getting decimated by the Ducks on the boards, Stanford answered the call against Cal’s superior size and held the Golden Bears to offensive boards on only 23% of its shots.  That’s after Oregon rebounded over 50% of its shots on Sunday night.  That added up to a meager -2 on points in the paint and -2 on second chance points, an advantage that would not be enough for Cal to win.

                That brings us to what really won the game for Stanford.  The Cardinal generated free throws at an eye-popping 64% rate.  That led to a massive +21 advantage at the line.  Home court advantage?  Certainly, but Stanford also spent the night relentlessly driving to the hoop.  Marcus Allen went 12-16 and down the stretch pounded the paint along with his brother Rosco, who went 8-9 from the line.  The Cardinal shot 79% from the line in this game.  This is how you win games where you go the final 6:01 without a field goal.

                Speaking of Marcus Allen, he quietly led Stanford in +/- at +16, not an insignificant number in a game with a six-point margin.  He came on in the second half after Coach Dawkins challenged him to start attacking in the second half.  In the first half, Dorian Pickens was Rosco’s partner in offense, scoring 14 points, 11 in the first half.

                That left Stanford desperately in need of a Third Amigo, and Freshman Marcus Sheffield stepped fearlessly into the breach.  Sheffield had 11 crucial points on a very efficient 3-6 shooting.  He played with poise and aggression far beyond his years, something he’s turning into a bit of a habit. Coach Dawkins signaled him out as a stabilizing force when the Cardinal seemed to have lost its way.  He’s going to be hard to keep out of the starting lineup if he keeps trending up in league play.

                So they win.  They lose.  They win.  They lose.  They win. That’s the story in conference play for the Cardinal so far.  The question becomes can they find some consistency to their game?  This conference is an absolute buzzsaw this year, so the task is still daunting, especially for a team with only 10 wins with 13 left to play in the regular season.

                Stanford got a very satisfying win at the expense of its rivals on Thursday night, and their formula for success continued to crystallize.  Speed it up, get to the line, fight on the boards.  The task gets no easier with the Arizonas coming to town, but for one night at least Stanford found its game and brought its ceaseless fight to the court.  For this night, that was enough.


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