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All the Bears' Flaws on Display in Loss to USC

Editor's note:  this is draft #2 of this Cal men's basketball recap.  Draft #1 was a mostly-uninterrupted string of curse words, some of them quite creative.  It was deemed 'practically unpublishable', and this second, more sober draft was thrown together.  Am I going soft with a baby daughter on the way?  Perhaps, perhaps.

From the sound of it, Cal's 66-63 loss at USC Thursday night was all kinds of ugly.  I say 'sound', of course, because this game was not televised anywhere.  Now, I really enjoy listening to Roxy Bernstein calling a Cal Basketball game, but there's very little he could do to make long stretches of this game palatable.  Lots of things went wrong for the Bears tonight, but, gun to my head, if I was forced to pinpoint what cost the Bears tonight, I'd look at the 10+ minutes between when Jerome Randle hit a 3-pointer with 6:48 left in the first half, and when Jerome hit another three with 16:02 left in the second half.  In between, the Bears:

- missed all 11 shots they took, 2 of them blocked
- turned the ball over 7 times
- committed 6 fouls
- gave up 25 points and 4 offensive rebounds
- Jerome Randle(!) missed two straight free throws, their only attempts over that stretch

Most times, if your team gives up a 25-0 run, your team isn't going to have a prayer.  The mere fact that the Bears had a chance to win at the end (even holding a couple brief one-point leads) is a testament to the Bears' perseverance, or, at the very least, Jerome Randle's unwillingness to lay down.  Randle hit some big threes to get the Bears back into the game, finishing with a game-high 29 points (Dwight Lewis was the second-leading scorer in the game, with 13).

So, there's that to celebrate, at least.  Let's take a look at a couple other key stats:

Now, to shamelessly ape an old Simpsons' bit:

- Jorge Gutierrez had 8 rebounds on the game.  Only USC's Nikola Vucevic had more in the game.  That's good!

- Jamal Boykin, Markhuri Sanders-Frison, and Max Zhang combined for a total of two rebounds.  That's bad.

- Jerome Randle hit 6-12 from beyond the arc, single-handedly keeping the Bears in the game at times, and is now Cal's all-time leading three-point shooter.  That's good!

- The rest of the team was 13-35 from the floor, a very poor 37% shooting.  Patrick Christopher was just 4-13, and Jorge Gutierrez was 2-8.  That's bad.

- The Bears defense played a large part in 18 Trojan turnovers.  That's good!

- The Bears missed something like 9 or 10 layups, many of them uncontested.  That's bad.

- The Bears were outrebounded 37-27, a minus-10 margin on the boards.  That's also bad.

- Theo Robertson gets fouled with the Bears down two and about 10 seconds left, but the usually steady senior misses the first shot (he hit only 3 of 6 on the night), and the Bears never get another chance to tie.  Yep, also bad.

- Arizona lost at Washington, so the 6-4 Bears remain in a first-place tie, now with UCLA and Arizona State as well.  That's good, I guess.  First team to 12 wins gets the conference crown!  That's good for competitive balance, bad for getting teams into the NCAA tournament.

You could level a lot of criticism at the Bears tonight.  You could say that they were soft inside, that they didn't hustle after rebounds, that they got complacent with a 13-point first half lead and let USC back in the game, that they pressed and got even sloppier as USC took the lead in the second half, that their lineup isn't deep enough to win a conference championship and that Monty is forced to run his seniors into the ground, that they forced too many shots too early in the shot clock and that when things start going wrong for them offensively, they let it hurt them on the defensive end as well.

Yeah, you could say all those things.


Oh, is this the part where I say 'but,...' and say something good about the team?  Nah, I don't wanna; nobody else has.  Monty rambled on in the postgame show, not only listing various problems the Bears had tactically, but also questioning his player's heart, their drive to go get that loose ball, that extra possession.  Roxy was clearly frustrated, saying he felt like kicking the dog after this clunker.  KFRC's nighttime music programmer seemed blissfully unaware, so it stung even more that the first song they played after the Bears' postgame show was Bachman–Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business".  Screw you, KFRC.  That's not funny!  Not funny at all!

However, through it all, the Bears are still in first place.  Their last two losses have both been heartbreakers on the road, and playing 'what if' is only going to make me mad right now.  But if the Bears can regroup at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday and come home with a win and first place intact, well, tonight's game will simply be remembered as a miserable Thursday night, and not the start of something worse.