clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Second Half Surge leads the Bears past Washington St.

Don't let the 86-70 final score fool you - Washington St. gave Cal everything they could handle, and only a late, referee related meltdown prevented this game from going down to the wire.  Washington St. came out looking to redeem themselves for losing an 18 point lead against Stanford on Thursday night, and for 20 minutes they did just that.  Consider:  The Cougars shot 65% from the floor, 75% from three, grabbed more rebounds, shot more free throws, blocked 8(!) shots and probably played their best half of basketball.  Cal was lucky to be within shouting distance at the break down just eleven.

The first half was something of a mess for the Bears.  Cal looked confused on defense and crisp ball rotation from WSU created a number of wide open looks.  Klay Thompson in particular took advantage of those looks and simply shot the lights out, going 5-5 from three on his way to 23 first half points.  Meanwhile, WSU came out playing impressive defense as well.  Cal fans know that Jerome Randle is much more than a 3 point specialists, but Marcus Capers and WSU's help defense turned him into just that.  Capers harassed Randle for much of the half, and every time Jerome found space to drive he was quickly met by other defenders who frequently altered or blocked his shots.  If Jerome hadn't hit 4 of his patented, crazy-deep-nobody-would-guard-me-from-here threes Cal would have faced a much more intimidating halftime deficit.

I don't know about the rest of you Cal fans, but I was surprised at how calm I was with the Bears down 11 at half.  Considering that Cal isn't far removed from a painful, late loss to Arizona and the 25-0 debacle at USC, perhaps I should have been more worried.  But I had the sense that we had taken Washington St.'s best punch and stayed standing.  None of WSU's percentages were sustainable, and it felt like it was only a matter of time until Cal made a few plays on defense and found other contributors on offense.  As it turned out those two roles would be filled by Jorge Gutierrez and Patrick Christopher.

The most important long term development this weekend was Jorge's return to full health (or very near to it).  He had a classic Jorge game, contributing something vital to the victory in every phase of the game.  His scorelines (15 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 steals) are never notable except for their completeness.  It's been said hundreds of times, but I'll say it again anyway:  When Cal needs the ball back, when Cal needs a big bucket, when Cal needs a defensive stop, he provides it more often than not.  And now he's gotten back enough lateral quickness that he can effectively guard an elite offensive player who went for 23 points in 20 minutes.  Thompson only got 5 after the half and Jorge played a role in making it happen along with Christopher, who played the bulk of the defense against WSU's star sophomore.

On the offensive end Patrick Christopher immediately announced Cal's comeback by drawing a quick foul on a drive and then scoring 7 straight points by himself on the way to 19 points.  The game would be a back and forth affair until the most sudden implosion of a tight game you'll see.  Check out this play-by-play:

71-70, Cal
3:11 - Koprivica misses layup, rebound Boykin
Casto fouls Boykin, Boykin makes both FTs
73-70, Cal
2:55 - WSU turnover
2:50 - Christopher good layup
75-70, Cal
2:45 - Thompson misses 3 pointer, rebound Gutierrez.
2:43 - Foul on Thames, technical foul on Bone.
Cal makes 3 of 4 FTs
78-70, Cal

Yup, Cal got 7 points in about 30 seconds of gametime.  The Koprivica missed layup was perhaps the single most important swing in the game - a layup that would have given WSU a one point lead looked good in every way, rolled around on the rim, appeared to settle on the back of the rim, then fell off to the left to Boykin, who was fouled over the back and hit two FTs.  Sometimes it's better to be lucky - just ask Michael Roll.  Washington St. was victim to a number of questionable foul calls down the stretch and finally fell apart after a poorly timed technical call on coach Ken Bone.  I'm not going to have much sympathy for the Cougars' plight, because WSU benefited from a number of questionable calls earlier in the game.  The fact that Deangelo Casto (who had an admittedly spectacular defensive game) got called for his first foul with 7:34 left in the 2nd half despite a large number of bruising encounters against Bears attacking the key is an indication of how close this game was called til late.  Just chalk up another game into the column of confusing, contradictory performances from Pac-10 refs.

With 5 games left Cal still has a one game lead over Arizona St., and it seems pretty clear that the regular season conference champion will effectively be decided two weeks from now in Berkeley when the Arizona schools come to visit.  The challenge for the Bears will be to maintain their intensity and focus in Oregon.  The Ducks and Beavers are both struggling, but both are completely capable of beating Cal.  Monty's troops have played like they can smell a championship for three straight games.  Do it for five more and a long, long streak of futility could fall.

So what do you think, Cal fans?  How worried were you at halftime?  What do you expect in Oregon next week?  Who impressed you the most this past week?


What impressed you most?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Jerome Randle's 3 point assault
    (21 votes)
  • 11%
    Patrick Christopher's defense and 2nd half surge
    (17 votes)
  • 6%
    Jamal Boykin's interior saavy
    (10 votes)
  • 68%
    Everything Jorge Gutierrez does
    (103 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now