The womens' games weren't televised, and instead of watching Cal blow out Oregon by 30 on Thursday, RemorsefulBruinBabe and I learned how to make lamb steaks, seafood linguine, and bananas flambe. It was in the Twist vein of skipping Cal athletics for domesticated irrelevance, but A) doesn't learning how to cook (and eating!) those delicious dishes sound better than sitting through a Tween comedy? and B) unlike Mr. Hook, I go to more than one game a year. And although I hate to miss a Cal victory. I think the Oregon game can be summarized by one sentence: At halftime, Patrick Christopher had the same amount of points (21) as the entire Oregon team.
All this is to say, the only Cal game I saw last week was Cal's near disaster neé blowout against Oregon State on Saturday. OSU's furious comeback (they went on a 13-1 run over 5:11) started after I sent this text message: "We're playing now. This game is over." Whoops. One would think that I would have learned my lesson last year, when Cal did not hit a field goal over the last 9 minutes in their home loss to OSU, but I'm a moron.
This game was remarkably similar to last year's debacle at Haas. Cal and OSU played a close game, Cal finally pulled away in the middle of the second half, and OSU staged an incredible comeback just as the game seemed out of reach. Last year, OSU finished off the comeback and it really, really sucked. Then they beat Cal up in Corvallis and that, too, really sucked. That 0-2 record against the Beavs probably prevented Cal from earning a 6 seed in the NCAA, which would have given Cal a weaker opponent in the first round and a better chance at coming up with our first tourney win since 2003. If Barack Obama could implement health care only half as well as his brother in law implements that damn 1-3-1 zone...
Cal took control of the game in the second half the same way they usually do - with their defense. Once they ratched up the defensive intensity, Cal earned some stops and scored transition buckets. Transition buckets, and the strong defense that leads to them, are especially important against zone teams like OSU, because Cal can find good shots before their opposition sets their defense. This will be a huge factor on Cal's upcoming road swing, as Cal will face zones against ASU and ucla and a very stingy man to man against USC.
During Cal's 25-10 run, Cal was making all the hustle plays. Boykin made an incredible sprawling effort to save the ball, throwing it off a Beaver as he dove out of bounds. Monty was fired up at one of the media timeouts, slapping and bumping players as they came to the bench. Omondi Amoke kept a possession alive with a 1 versus 3 offensive rebound. Amoke continues to play well as a starter, hitting the offensive glass hard and scoring about 10 points per game from within three feet of the hoop. He still doesn't have a jump shot but he's much better finishing at the rim than he was last year.
We welcomed back our hero Jorge Gutierrez, but as expected, he was not a factor in the game. He played just 4 minutes and was sporting a giant knee brace that made his leg look bionic. Hopefully he'll be able to give 20+ minutes/game on the road trip.
With Jorge hurt and Theo in foul trouble, DJ Seeley played 13 minutes in the first half. Without extenuating circumstances like injuries and fouls, DJ probably still wouldn't be seeing much action, but he's starting to play some defense and show some effort. He's also displaying the smooth offensive moves and nice looking shot, though he did shoot 0-3 from three.
Seeley certainly wasn't bad, but Cal played a lot better when Theo returned to action in the second half. He scored 5 points early in the second half to give Cal the lead and then bailed out the team with a giant three from the right wing, with only 3 seconds left on the shot clock. That bumped Cal's lead from 3 to 6, and ended OSU's 13-1 run.
The guy who really owes Theo for the huge three pointer is Jerome Randle. Randle had seven turnovers in the game (no other player had more than three), four of them in the last five minutes of the second half. He also had several near turnovers, such as slipping on a crossover and almost picking up a ten second backcourt violation before running into a defender and drawing a close blocking foul as he went out of bounds. He was simply out of control, at the point in the game when all Cal needed was smart ball control and solid defense. His most irritating habit was to leave his feet without anyone to pass to, leaving Beav defenders to pick off his forced passing attempts.
We've now seen "Bad Randle" in two of the last three games. It's his first three games since injuring his knee against WSU, and the knee is definitely hindering him - he limps heading to the bench and to the free throw line. If Randle does not heal and continues to struggle with his shot and turnovers, everything else is a moot point - Cal is only going as far as Randle can take them.
Randle was clearly bothered by UW's pressure defense and by OSU's trap. It was curious that OSU utilized an aggressive trap only at the end game as they were mounting their comeback. Randle was much more comfortable against the more passive 1-3-1 that OSU employed for most of the game, and as soon as the Beavs instituted their 3/4 court press and sideline trap, Randle started turning the ball over on what seemed like every possession. Thank you, OSU, for not utilizing your aggressive defense earlier in the game, thus enabling Cal to build a 15 point lead that barely held.
The funniest part of the game was the get to know a player segment with Harper Kamp. When asked to name Cal's best dressed player, Harper said "I'll give it to Patrick because he tries so hard."
Harper, I agree
At 5-2, Cal sits alone in first place in the Pac-10, one win ahead of SIX other teams. It's nice to be in first, but Cal has had an easy schedule thus far with 5 home games (though without much home court advantage at serene Haas Pavilion) in 7 games. They only have 4 home games in their last 11, with a four game road trip over the next two weeks. A lot will depend on the health of Jerome, Jorge, and Markhuri, but I'm expecting a split at this point. 3-1 (with a win over the bruins, of course) would be great. Tip against ASU on Thursday is 5:30. Go Bears!