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Women’s basketball: Brandon takes leave

All-Pac-12 forward Gennifer Brandon has taken a leave from the Cal women’s team for personal reasons.

The school said in a statement Sunday that there is no timetable for her return.

Brandon played 13 minutes in the No. 17 Golden Bears’ opener before sitting out three games while recovering from stress fractures in her right leg. She had six points in that game. The Bears lost their first two games without her before edging Georgetown.

The fifth-year senior, who averaged 12.3 points last season, missed Sunday’s game against Northwestern — which Cal won 65-51 — and will be out indefinitely.

“Gennifer Brandon is currently not involved in team activities as she handles more pressing personal matters. We love Genn,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said in a statement released by the school. “We support Genn. She remains a part of the Cal women’s basketball family. We hope to have her back with us soon.”

Reshanda Gray shot 9 of 13 from the field, scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Bears past the Wildcats.

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Basketball: Bears hope they are ready to jump into the deep end at Maui Invitational

Cal vs. Arkansas: Monday, noon, ESPN2

The landscape changes Monday for the Cal basketball team. The competition at the Maui Invitational is serious.

How serious? Well, the eight teams entered in the three-day event have a combined record of 30-0. Three of them are ranked in the AP Top-25.

“The four games we played, we should have won,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery, whose Bears (4-0) face Arkansas (3-0) in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. “Now all these teams are solid. Some are really good, some could be really good.”

Montgomery is familiar with Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. He was at Missouri in 2008-09 when the Tigers ran Cal off the court in a 93-66 rout at Columbia, Mo.

Back at his alma mater, where he played for Nolan Richardson, Anderson utilizes the same “40 minutes of hell” approach to full-court pressure.

The Razorbacks have forced 61 turnovers their first three games and allowed their opponents to shoot just 28.8 percent from the 3-point arc. They are averaging 88 points per game.

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Big Game notebook: Barbour gives Dykes freedom to make any staff moves he deems necessary

Cal coach Sonny Dykes sidestepped questions Saturday about whether he might make changes on his staff, but athletic director Sandy Barbour made it clear Dyke has the freedom to do whatever he thinks is necessary.

“Those are decisions that are the head coach’s. In my mind, philosophically and practically, always will be,” Barbour said after the Bears lost 63-13 to Stanford in the Big Game to finish their season 1-11.

There will be pressure from fans — and perhaps current players and recruits — to make a change at defensive coordinator, where Andy Buh’s unit allowed a school-record 45.9 points per game.

Asked if he can guarantee any member of his staff will return next season, Dykes said, “We’ll take a look at it all. I can’t guarantee I’ll be back next year.”

Barbour called the season “tremendously disappointing” but is pleased with some progress, including in the program’s classroom performance.

“Sonny’s coming in and changing a culture, changing a program, building it right,” she said. “The part on the field is going to take a little longer.”

Stanford coach David Shaw had only good things to say about the Bears rookie coach.

“Cal has hired the right man,” Shaw said. “Sonny is going to do a great job there. They’re building. They know it’s going got be a process.”

Click here to read the rest of this notebook.

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Football: Bears blasted in Big Blowout

The final game of the worst season in Cal football history went from insult to injury.

No. 10 Stanford stormed effortlessly to a 29-point halftime lead and knocked freshman quarterback Jared Goff out of the game on the way to a 63-13 rout in the 116th Big Game in front of 50,424 fans at Stanford Stadium.

Coach Sonny Dykes’ debut season with the Bears ended Saturday afternoon with another skewering of the Cal defense and a 10th straight defeat.

“I can make a bunch of excuses,” Dykes said. “My job’s to get the team ready to play and clearly they haven’t been ready to play. I haven’t done a very good job.”

Stanford’s 63 points were the most either team has scored in the rivalry game that began in 1892. The previous record was 48.

Cal (1-11, 0-9 Pac-12) finished without a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) for the first time since before 1900, extending losing streaks to 14 games against Pac-12 opponents and 16 against FBS teams.

By the time the Bears visit Northwestern on Aug. 30, 2014, to open next season, it will have been 684 days since their most recent victory over an FBS team, a 31-17 win at Washington State on Oct. 13, 2012.

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Football: Big Game thread

FINAL SCORE: Stanford 63, Cal 13. The 63 points are the most scored by either team in the Big Game, dating back to 1892. Goff finished with 3,508 yards, a Cal single-season record.

The Bears finish 1-11, 0-9 in the Pac-12 — the first time since before 1900 they have failed to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision/Division I opponent. They closed the season on a 10-game losing streak, extending droughts against Pac-12 foes (14 games) and FBS opponents (16).

Cal allowed more than 40 points for the ninth time in 12 games and gave up 551 points on the season — third-most in Pac-12 history.

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Football: Big Game preview

CAL AT STANFORD

RECORDS: Cal 1-10, 0-8 Pac-12; Stanford 8-2, 6-2.

KICKOFF: 1 p.m. at Stanford Stadium.

TV: Fox Sports 1

RADIO: 810-AM, KNBR-1050

SERIES HISTORY: Stanford leads 58-46-11. The Cardinal has won the past three meetings, including 21-3 last season at Berkeley. Cal’s most recent Big Game victory was a 34-28 win at Stanford in 2009.

CAL STORYLINES: The Bears are 31.5-point underdogs and need an upset of historical proportions to avoid their first season without a major college victory since the start of the 1900s … Cal is 0-4 on the road this season, with an average margin of defeat of 26.8 points … With eight projected starters out this week, the Bears’ season total for “missed starts” climbs to 73.

STANFORD STORYLINES: The Cardinal will take the field approximately 30 minutes after kickoff of the Oregon-Arizona game. An Oregon loss, combined with a Cardinal victory, would give Stanford the North division title and a berth in the league championship game … Stanford, which is coming off a 20-17 defeat at USC, has not lost back-to-back games since the 2009 season.

CAL INJURY UPDATE: WR Chris Harper (hip), LB Khairi Fortt (biceps), LB Hardy Nickerson (foot) and CB Isaac Lapite (knee) are out. RB Darren Ervin (shoulder) is probable.

STANFORD INJURY UPDATE: DE Ben Gardner (pectoral muscle) and CB Alex Carter (concussion) are out. K Jordan Williamson (leg) is questionable.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s run game vs. Stanford’s defensive front … After struggling on the ground all season, the Bears gained 190 yards against USC and 197 vs. Colorado the past two weeks. Junior Brendan Bigelow rushed for 107 yards at CU — the Bears’ first player to crack 100 yards this season … The Cardinal leads the Pac-12 and is tied for third nationally in run defense (91.6 yards per game) … Over the past three games, Stanford has allowed 1.4 yards per rush … Cal rushed for three yards against Stanford last year..

CAL STATS THAT MATTER: Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff needs 186 passing yards to break Pat Barnes’ single-season school record of 3,499, set in 1996 … The Bears are last in the conference in turnover margin (minus-1.36 per game) and 11th in sacks allowed per game (3.0 per game.)

STANFORD STATS THAT MATTER: Stanford is second in the conference in sacks (3.2 per game) … The Cardinal has won 14 consecutive home games, the second-longest streak in the nation (South Carolina) … Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney is averaging 157.8 yards per game in the past month.

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Football: Underdog Bears enter Big Game still seeking spark they can harness to build a future

Jeff Tedford in his debut season at Cal in 2002 had Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh five years later at Stanford had USC.

But what has first-year Cal coach Sonny Dykes’ team achieved this season that might provide a spark for the program’s future?

So far, nothing tangible. At 1-10 and without a win over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, Dykes and the Bears have one more chance to make a splash.

“If we beat Stanford,” linebacker Michael Barton said, “we’ll have a lot of steam rolling into next year.”

But as 32-point underdogs Saturday, the Bears are the biggest long shot in Big Game history.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Academics: Latest graduation rate scores and estimated APR for football encouraging

Cal football has gotten some encouraging news from the NCAA on two academic fronts: 

  • The Graduation Success Rate: The Bears earlier this fall recorded an embarrassing GSR score of 44 percent for players who entered school in 2006. Now, the NCAA reports that the GSR for football players admitted to Berkeley in 2007 has risen to an estimated 65 percent, an increase of almost 50 percent.
  • The Academic Progress Rate: The APR, which measures real-time academic performance and student-athlete retention, also shows substantial improvement after scoring a substandard score of 923 last spring. The the latest estimate for this year’s rate, according t0 the NCAA, is 969. If sustained, that rate would result in a graduation rate of about 85 percent. The NCAA will release final, audited numbers in the spring.

Here’s the complete news release from the UC Berkeley public affairs office.

Here is a link to the plans unveiled Thursday by athletic director Sandy Barbour to form a task force that will include faculty, staff, students and alumni to identify and examine the key factors that play a role in the academic achievement of Cal’s student-athletes.

 

 

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Football: Harper (hip) out of Big Game

As if the odds weren’t long enough in the Big Game for the 1-10 Bears, sophomore wide receiver Chris Harper has been declared out with a hip injury that had slowed him the previous three weeks.

“It’s a bummer. Chris has been a playmaker for us all year, just hasn’t gotten healthy,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “He’s been trying to work through it, just got to the point where he couldn’t do it anymore. So we’re going to shelve him and start getting him ready for next year.”

Harper is fourth in the Pac-12 with 70 receptions and has been the Bears’ best deep threat. But the hip has limited his recent productivity. Over the past three games, Harper has caught 15 passes for just 82 yards. 

Also, junior linebacker Khairi Fortt will miss his third straight game with a biceps injury.

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Dykes said the Bears’ final practice of the season went well.

“I think the guys are upbeat. They understand this is a way to salvage something from this season if we go out there and pull an upset,” he said.

A sports psychologist was the Bears’ guest speaker before practuce. “Pretty interesting guy,” Dykes said. “He talked to our guys about state of mind. It’s important, obviously, as we get ready for Saturday and start working for next year.”

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Basketball: Monty on Diallo: `Fabulous athlete’

Cal coach Mike Montgomery remembers his reaction the first time he saw Idrissa Diallo on the basketball court.

“You’re just kind of, `Whoa, this guy can really run and jump.’ He’s like a 6-3 or 6-4 guy in a 6-10 body and about 230,” Montgomery said of the Senegalese native the Bears signed to a national letter of intent Wednesday night.

Diallo, a senior at Cathedral High in Los Angeles, joins four-star point guard Ahmaad Rorie in a two-man recruiting class that will arrive in Berkeley next fall.

Rated as a three-star prospect by both Scout.com and Rivals.com. Diallo came to the U.S. just two years ago.

Diallo played last season for Middlebrooks Academy in Los Angeles, where he averaged 21.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game.

Still, as a basketball prospect, he is raw with a substantial upside.

“Fabulous athlete. He’s off the charts, athletically,” Montgomery said.

Diallo hasn’t played for five months because he broke his elbow, but Montgomery said the entire Cal coaching staff was impressed with what they saw last season.

He fills a personnel need with senior forward Richard Solomon — a similar body type — due to graduate.

“He stacks up favorably (with Solomon). He’s strong. He pursues the ball. He can really rebound,” Montgomery said. “He’s obviously a little inexperienced. He’s another one of the African kids who grew up playing soccer, like most of them.

“But he’s competitive and we can focus on getting him to get every ball, we can lob to him. Those kinds of athletes are tough to come by.”