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Cal Blows 18-Point Lead, Loses to Stanford in Pac-12 Tournament

Cal goes scoreless for nearly 10 minutes in a disappointing loss to end its season in its final Pac-12 game
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Cal's 2023-24 season and its Pac-12 basketball involvement ended in agonizing fashion.

The Bears led Stanford by 18 points with less than 15 minutes remaining in the game, but lost to the Cardinal 87-76 in overtime on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.

And this disappointment will be remembered as Cal's final Pac-12 game. The Bears begin play in the ACC next season.

"We had opportunities tonight to put that game away," Cal coach Mark Madsen said in a postgame radio interview. "We had control most of the game and it slipped way late."

Madsen went on to say how proud he was of his players and the steps taken this season, as Cal improved from three wins last year to 13 this season and had its best Pac-12 record (9-11) since 2016-17.

However, it was difficult to look at the positives after Wednesday's collapse.

The Bears had a stretch of nearly 10 minutes in the second half in which they failed to score a point. That drought cost the Bears, who had an 18-point lead with 14:36 left in the game before Stanford rallied.

Cal's offense was working like clockwork for the first 25 minutes of the game.  Jalen Celestine's three-point shot at the 14:36 mark gave Cal a 63-45 lead.  

However, over the next 12:45, Cal scored just two points, and the Bears went scoreless from the 11:17 mark to the 1:51 mark, enabling the Cardinal to make enroads.

Madsen tried to explain why things changed in this video:

When Stanford started to make a push, Cal's offense became stagnant.

"The ball kind of stuck in the second half," said Cal guard Jalen Cone, who finished with a team-high 19 points, "and we weren't playing with as much pace and getting out in transition in the second half.

"We slowed the game down and it worked to their advantage. We're just a more athletic team than they were, a faster team, so I definitely say the pace of our offense definitely slowed down a little bit."

Stanford coach Jerod Haase credited the increased intensity of his defense for the turnaround.

Nonetheless, Cal was still in good shape when it held a four-point lead with 33 seconds left.  A Spencer Jones free throw with 26.4 seconds left made it a three-point game, and Cal immediately turned the ball over in the backcourt, leading to a three-pointer by Michael Jones that tied the game at 69-69 with 19.6 seconds left.

Stanford had been 2-for-21 on three-pointers before that Michael Jones basket.

Cal turned the ball over again on the ensuing inbounds play, but Stanford was unable to score and the game went to overtime.

Stanford made its first two three-point shots of the overtime period to take command.  Cal never got its offense going again in the extra period, scoring just five points in overtime.

In the final 19:36 of the game (14;36 of the second half plus the five-minute overtime), Cal managed just 11 points, shooting 4-for-28 in that span.

Cal played the overtime without Jalen Celestine and Fardaws Aimaq, both of whom had fouled out.  Fardaws fouled out with 4:27 left in regulation.

"That definitely hurt, because Fardaws does such a great job of controling the glass, a great voice on the back line," Madsen said.

It does not account for losing a game in which Cal led by 18 points.

So Stanford (14-17) will face second-seeded Washington State in the quarterfinals on Thursday, while Cal (13-19) ended the season with four straight losses.  The last two losses were against Stanford, which had defeated Cal 80-58 in the final regular-season game on Thursday.

The biggest discrepancy on Wednesday was at the foul line.  Stanford attempted 36 free throws, making 24, and Cal had nine foul shots, and made six of them.

Besides Cone's 19 points, Jaylon Tyson added 18 for Cal, although Tyson scored just two points in the second half.

Maxime Raynaud finished with 21 points for Stanford, and Spencer Jones added 20.

Cal began the game with an offensive outburst, taking an early 15-4 lead and maintaining its lead throughout the first half.

The Bears shot 54.3% from the field in the first half and led by as many as 12 points late in the half, which ended with Cal holding a 45-34 lead.

A major part of Cal’s first-half success was Stanford’s problems from three-point range. The Cardinal entered the game leading the Pac-12 in three-point shots made per game, but Stanford missed its first nine attempts from beyond the three-point line and ended the half 2-for-15 from long range.

Jaylon Tyson finished the half with 16 points, while Maxime Raynaud had 13 points in the first 20 minutes for Stanford. 

NOTES: Aimaq was fasting Wednesday in observance of Ramadan.  He had not eaten since sunrise. He had eight points and nine rebounds on Wednesday and finished the season with 351 rebounds, which is the third most for a single season in Cal history and the most in 52 years.

This was the final college game for Aimaq, Cone and Keonte Kennedy. Jaylon Tyson has one more year of college eligibility, but he is considering entering the NBA draft, because he is considered a late first-round or early second-round pick at this point.

Tyson finished the season with 607 points, tying him for seventh on Cal's single-season scoring list.

Cover photo of Jaylon Tyson by Darren Yamashita, USA TODAY Sports

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