For two years running, Cal was frustrated by Oregon State's 1-3-1 zone defense. Jerome Randle wasn't big enough to look over Seth Tarver and the Golden Bears had all sorts of problems dealing with annoyances like Seth Tarver and Roeland Schaftenaar. Unfortunately, Oregon State no longer has that size advantage to make that zone work, and the Beavers defense plummeted from top-notch to mediocrity within a year.
And Cal finally took advantage of that zone. It was layup after layup after layup, with Oregon State looking powerless from the inside pummeling the Golden Bears gave them. Cal finished with 42 points in the paint. Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison were 12 for 18 from the field. Jorge Gutierrez finally broke out of his slump with 16 points and 11 dimes for his first career double-double, and Brandon Smith chipped in seven dimes. Cal made 31 shots off of 23 assists. Now that's offensive efficiency.
Better yet though was the defensive mirroring, as the Bears came back with a zone of their own, flustering the Beavers from beginning to end. I'd urged Cal to zone up that OSU squad more and more (one of the worst three point shooting teams in the conference), and tonight it was almost exclusively a 2-3 look that flustered the Beavers. If not for Jared Cunningham getting to the line and Calvin Haynes nailing some early shots, the Bears would have blown out Oregon State by 50. They'll have to settle for 28. Them's the breaks.
While this is a promising win, it'll be big if Cal can sustain that type of effort against Oregon and have a similar comfortable result. Slowly but surely, the Bears are creeping up into the middle part of the conference (tied for 4th place after tonight). Can they break through?
This is the postgame thread. Recap tomorrow.