It says something about the talent and inherent advantages that Washington held over Cal that the general consensus was that the Bears didn't play that badly last night - at least initially. For thirteen minutes Cal played even with the Huskies, and then UW took over with a flurry of 3 point attempts, some wide open, others contested. The game got ugly (uglier?) in the second half as Washington continued to shoot the nets off and the Bears stopped making the plays that were keeping things close in the first half. The result was a 21 point loss that could have been much worse if UW had decided to keep their foot on the gas.
I can't speak for everybody, but I think most Cal fans felt this one coming. The Bears had played over their heads for three games and played an exhausting overtime game on Thursday. Washington played well below their ability and lost their first conference game to Stanford. A correction seemed inevitable. So perhaps it's just as well that the correction involved zero drama and heartburn. It's always easier to accept defeat when an obviously talented opponent plays to the near peak of their ability. Every mistake Cal made, Washington took advantage of. Every forward that wasn't boxed out got an offensive rebound. Every missed defensive rotation led to an easy basket. Every screen that wasn't fought through ended in a 3 pointer rattling home.
I mean that much less as an indictment of Cal's play and more to credit Washington. Most college players (particularly inexperienced ones) will make mistakes. Good teams playing well take advantage. Washington did that and more, to the tune of a rather outrageous 62.3 eFG% and 20 assists. Isaiah Thomas's play made us all pine for Jerome Randle, and Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning had essentially whatever they wanted down low. It was a reminder, after the high of Thursday's win, of how far this collection of players still has to come. But I did see enough flashes to remain steadfastly optimistic.
If I remember nothing else from this game, I'll remember Allen Crabbe's reverse scoop layup, when he blew by his defender off the dribble, ducked under a charging Bryan-Amaning, flew past the basket and deftly kissed the ball off the glass for a spectacular, acrobatic basket. For the majority of the year Crabbe has proven to be an above average shooter who can find baskets within the flow of the offense, but he hadn't shown that type of explosiveness much. It's a reminder that he's still just scratching the surface of what he can do on the basketball court.
Cal's other freshmen showed flashes as well. Richard Solomon had the chance to go one-on-one with Washington's seemingly endless supply of long, athletic big men and acquitted himself quite well in 20 minutes of work - going 5-5 from the field, drawing fouls, blocking shots and even collecting 3 assists. He showed an exciting aggression and confidence in the face of high level opposition.
Even Emerson Murray showed some flashes with a beautiful and-1 basket, an athletic looking near put-back and a few nice defensive plays against Thomas. He also badly missed two 3 pointers and was, like every other Bear, victimized at times on defense. Still, he's made obvious progress from earlier in the season and the more playing time the better for 2012 and beyond.
Unfortunately, the less said about the performances of everybody else not named Harper Kamp the better. Everybody just seemed a little off, which probably shouldn't be surprising since half the team logged 40+ minutes and then had to come back to play one of the fastest teams in the nation. We'll put this game behind us and look ahead to a trip to L.A. that will finish Cal's exceedingly difficult early Pac-10 schedule. If the Bears manage to steal a game against suddenly reeling USC or the mercurial Bruins then I think most Cal fans will have to consider the first seven games of the conference schedule an unqualified success.