When they're a complete basketball team, the Golden Bears are a tough team for anyone to battle for forty minutes. Kansas will attest. So will Pacific and the Furd. But when a key member of the rotation goes down, they're not only beatable, they can be utterly mediocre, as was the case yesterday against the Huskies. Cal's seniors looked ragged after an up-tempo battle in Pullman, and got their asses waxed for forty minutes.
Without Theo Robertson, the Bears lost a third of their big three scorers, couldn't compete against more talented Syracuse and Ohio State squads, and ran out of steam in the Pit. Without Jorge Gutierrez, Cal fell in embarrassing fashion to UCLA, slogged their way to a win over USC, and showed no defensive intensity at all during the Washington road trip.
I should emphasize this over and over: The Bears are not a deep team. Any injury to their guys will reveal that fragility. Our bench is good enough for 3-4 minute spurts, but you can't ask any of them to play 15-20 minutes without seeing a rapid dropoff in performance from the guys in front of them. In this case, no Jorge meant no one on the bench to provide energy or minutes, it meant more time for the fatigued seniors, it meant giving more minutes to guys who haven't seen enough PT to make an impact, it meant mixing and matching rotations and hoping for SOMETHING to stick. It didn't work Saturday.
After the jump, more thoughts on the team. Discuss the roadtrip in the comments and grade the Bears in the report card (or click here to get the form)!
I'm not going to moan and gripe too much about the defeat too much--I know we didn't play well at all. I expected Randle's play to fall to Earth, just not fall off the face of the Earth. Robertson and Boykin were no-shows. Amoke was invisible. Only Christopher, Seeley and Zhang looked ready to play, and the last two clearly were well-rested. For the Huskies, Isiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter played excellent games on both sides of the ball, outclassing Randle and Robertson. Overton was excellent defensively, Bryan-Amaning had an excellent offensive game against whoever guarded him, Gaddy distributed the ball, Holiday made some heads up plays on both sides of the ball--it was a completely A+ performance from a deeper, more talented team.
That's why I doubt that playing well would've earned us a win. The Huskies played like a team that neeed to win. They were more energetic, more athletic, and frustrated a Bears team that didn't have anything left to show. In short, they played like a team playing on a two game homestand--a loss for them would've ended any realistic hopes at winning the conference. They did what they needed to do--our job is to return the favor when we play them in Haas.
In the big picture, a fifteen point loss is no different from a one point defeat--take it, move on, set the reset button. The Bears and everyone else might as well be starting the conference schedule next week--there is no separation between any of these squads--so just keep on winning and keep pace with everyone else. No one is going to race away to the conference title this year.
Above all, they need to get healthy, get Jorge back into the lineup, and stay healthy. Otherwise Cal's goose is cooked.