That headline was about as positive a spin one can put on last night's rough loss. We know Monty doesn't care much for the Pac10 Tourney. Maybe he can use this extra time to focus the team on the Tournament, to focus on building strengths and shoring weaknesses.
This was the type of game where our fanbase could be excused for having conflicting emotions. Being down so big at half, one has a tendency to mentally check out of those games. To start building up emotional walls to loss. "It's OK if we lose big to USC, because we are in. Even if we are an 8 seed, we are in."
Of course, Cal itself didn't quite feel that way, dropping nearly 50 in the second half to stage the comeback. Then, your walls start to break down a little bit, crushed by the devastating power of hope. I've heard its quite audacious! And then when you are tied with :20 seconds to go with after being down by about 15 at half, you start to dream bad things. Pac10 Tournament titles. NCAA Tournament titles. You feel invincible, based solely on the machinations of 10 players playing a game far, far, far away from you.
So, when that bubble bursts, it hurts more than it would have were Cal to have lost by 30 in the first place. When one loses by just a few points, it is not too difficult to find places to make those points up.
For example, here Cal was 1-9 on 3s in the first half. 1-9! That, my friends, is not good. Even tho Cal shot 54% on 3s in the second half, they ended up with 35% on the day. Ouch!
And it certainly doesn't help that Cal was outrebounded 53-27.
POINTS IN PAINT 1 2 - Tot
USC..................... 18 14 - 32
California.............. 16 22 - 38
2ND CHANCE POINTS 1 2 - Tot
USC..................... 20 11 - 31
California.............. 4 11 - 15
Those are the stats for Points In The Paint And Second Chance Points. They are interesting here, because Cal actually scored more in the paint than USC. Even in the rough first half, they only had 2 fewer points in the paint. They didn't have trouble scoring from the inside.
But on the other end of the floor, when it came to 2nd chance points for USC (especially in the first half!), Cal couldn't stop USC. USC was getting all the boards and setting themselves up for second opportunities. So, in one way, Cal's inside game wasn't looking so bad there. But in another way, it was really, really, really, really bad.
Me, perhaps, I'm hopeful. Cal played so poorly in the first half. Shooting so terribly from the outside. Being totally outrebounded on the inside. Yet, Cal still showed fire and still nearly knocked off a tough USC team in LA playing for its NCAA life. If that first half is the worst b-ball Cal can play and they could STILL nearly overcome it, then as long as Cal doesn't play its WORST b-ball in the Tournament, maybe we could go places. Or this is just the inane ramblings of a man trying to find the silver lining in the burnt house of that Pac10 game last night. Who knows?
Either way, hope Monty keeps the team focused on the road ahead and we'll still have the women's team. Their game is today at about 1 and we'll have an open thread up before that time. GO BEARS!