Cal has to look pretty hard to find something encouraging about its 69-59 loss to Stanford at Maples Pavilion on Saturday.
Losing for the fourth time in the past six games while slipping to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in the conference after the promising 6-0 start does not inspire optimism as the Bears head off for a road trip against Utah and Colorado.
And a single play may have ruined the Bears' chances of pulling off a pivotal road win against the Cardinal (11-7, 2-3).
But there were some signs of better things ahead. Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs did not exactly bust out of their scoring slumps, but their showing in the second half against the Cardinal, when they combined for 23 of their 27 points, was far more palatable that the disastrous first half, when they combined for four points on 1-for-11 shooting. Continuing that trend in the second half may have produced a serious downward spiral.
They are the main offensive weapons for the Bears and need to provide a lot of the team's scoring. It puts a lot of pressure on those two, but it may be the only way Cal can finish in the top half of the conference standings.
Crabbe scored 14 points Saturday and has not exceeded 14 points in any of his last three games, dropping his scoring average under 20 points per game for the first time this season (he's now at 19.8 a game). His only three-pointer on Saturday came with 1:30 left and the Cardinal holding a 13-point lead, but perhaps it gave him an iota of confidence after making just 3 of his previous 18 three-point shots over six games. Teams are focusing a lot of defensive attention on Crabbe, and there's not much he can do about it unless some other Cal players score.
Cobbs was 0-for-7 in the first half Saturday, but found some rhythm in his shot in the second half to finish with 13 points. That was his highest scoring output in the past five games, and he is 18-for-60 (30 percent) from the field in that span. He is 1-for-8 on three-pointers in Cal's past seven games.
But when he started finding his touch early in the second half, the Bears made a run. Cal had cut into the eight-point lead Stanford have taken early in the second half and had momentum on its side and possession of the ball after scoring six straight points to get within 43-42.
But instead of Cal getting off a shot that could have put the Bears ahead, Stanford's Chasson Randle stole a crosscourt pass by Cobbs and took it the length of the floor, fending off Cal's 6-10 Richard Solomon at the basket to put in a layup that made it 45-42 Stanford with 12:41 left. The momentum shifted in an instant, starting a seven-point Stanford run from which Cal could not recover.
You can't fault Cal's defense. Stanford shot just 35.8 percent from the field, the fourth time in the past six games Cal has held its opponent under 37 percent shooting. However, Cal lost three of those four games -- losing to Harvard, Washington and Stanford while beating only Washington State.
David Kravish provided a strong performance for Cal with 14 points and nine rebounds, although most of his good work came in the first half.
Cal's depth problems were illustrated by the fact that Stanford's bench players outscored Cal's reserves 26-3.