There's something about Gill Coliseum that seems to induce a malaise on visiting Cal teams. In a surprising twist, the Beavers came out in their old trapping 1-3-1 zone after playing man for most of the season. The Bears countered with a zone of their own for the first time this year.
With a hot 5-0 start thanks to a Crabbe three-pointer and a Cobbs to Jorge layup, and it seemed like we might finally be bucking the trend of slow starts on the road.
But then a series of turnovers and defensive lapses allowed a furious 13-0 Beaver run. Without the benefit of video, we'll just have to take it on faith that the Bears appeared flat and weren't able to match the home team's frenetic energy.
A timeout from Monty settled the troops. Crabbe, Kamp, and Jorge all stepped up and cut the lead to 15-12 with 11:38 to play. Lost in the bounce-back run was a simple layup made significant because it brought Jorge Gutierrez past 1000 points for his career. Congratulations to our future Cal Hall of Famer.
Four straight points from David Kravish brought the Bears within one at 17-16. But, the Beavers promptly worked the ball to their...center (?!?) who calmly sank a three. Five more points from Ahmad Starks quickly brought the lead back up to seven.
Richard Solomon checked in for his first action since being diagnosed with a stress fracture. He quickly made his presence felt drawing a foul in the post, getting a steal on the other end, and setting bone-jarring screens that freed up Cobbs and Jorge for jumpers. Add in a Jorge three-pointer, and suddenly the Bears had retaken the lead 26-25.
The two teams proceeded to punch and counter-punch with mini-runs. Solo got fouled while grabbing an offensive board and hit his free throws. Then Cobbs got free and took it all the way to the rim. OSU countered with a Randle-esque deep three and another jumper from the increasingly annoying Ahmad Starks.
The lead exchanged places several times. Just as it looked like Cal was going to get the upper hand, they missed a layup and then turned it over.
Quite fittingly, the half ended at 38-all.
The second half began with both teams switching to man defense. While the Bears continued to work it inside, the Beavers stayed hot from the perimeter. Within minutes, both Cunningham and Cobbs had picked up their 3rd fouls. Moments later, the Pac-12 refs showed off their myopia by letting Burton run over Kamp on defense then calling Kamp for the charge on the other end. OSU rode several instances of uncalled thuggery to go on 10-5 run and built their lead to 50-43.
Jorge stopped the bleeding with an assassin's three. But then he picked up his 3rd foul and was forced to sit with 14:48 to play. With the Beavers already in the bonus and three of Cal's key players in foul trouble, the game looked ready to slip away.
Angus Brandt started building the coffin with yet another three and then a pull-up jumper. Then, Jared Cunningham went to work with the nails. Despite playing most of the half with three fouls, OSU Coach Craig Robinson chose to roll the dice by leaving Cunningham in the game. With Jorge on the bench, the Bears had no answer for the Beaver's star player. He drove repeatedly and drew foul after foul while appearing to be wearing a foul-teflon jersey on defense. At the eleven minute mark, the lead had grown to 10, 60-50.
But then Jorge re-asserted himself. He split a double team for an acrobatic layup and then turned a steal into a transition bucket for a quick four point flurry.
Just as it looked like the Bears might be making a run of their own, a series of turnovers allowed the Beavers to run and push the lead all the way to fourteen, 68-54.
Every time Cal tried to counter-punch, it seemed like Oregon State drained another three. The lead grew to fifteen with just seven minutes and change to play.
But, the Bear would not quit. The Bear would not die! Cobbs drove to the hoop repeatedly. Jorge drained a three while getting fouled for a four point play. Then Crabbe hit a three. After a 14-2 run, the Bears fought back to trail 77-73 with five minutes to go.
Then ever-fickle momentum decided to switch sides. A trap forced Crabbe to travel which turned into a Beaver dunk. Moments later, the refs called Kamp for his fourth foul, apparently for crouching with a rebound while Cunningham ran into him. The lead was back to eight with 3:19 to play.
Although Jorge and Cobbs battled gamely, the Bears simply couldn't get any stops on the other end. A physical game turned ugly when first Kravish was elbowed in the head, and then Smith was knocked out of the game from a hard foul.
When the blood and sweat had dried on the floor, the scoreboard was 92-85, Oregon State.
Foul trouble wore the Bears down and left us vulnerable defensively while stagnant offensively. Without all the starters on the floor, Cal had trouble moving the ball without turning it over against the Beavers relentless pressure. The game ultimately turned when both Jorge and Cunningham picked up their third fouls. Jorge sat, Cunningham played, and that's when Oregon State seized control.
Even when the Bears were playing well on offense, they had no answers on defense. It was too much Starks, Brandt, and Cunningham. Of course, they chose to defy mathematics by shooting out of their minds from deep(62% field, 61% from 3) despite being in the mid 30's percentage-wise for the season. And in proud Cal tradition, we made it in the record books by helping Ahmad Starks to a career-high 24 points.
Questionable fouls aside and miracle shots aside, it was a disappointing performance considering that tough defense had previously been the calling card for this Cal team.
There's nothing left to do but lick our wounds and whet our appetite for some Duck.