Cal hasn't had much joy lately.
Regret and frustration have been plenty. Anger. Recrimination? Oh yeah, lots of that to hand around. Surliness can be sold in shares on the steps of Sproul. Pain is a feeling we've had to find ways to cope with on too many fall Saturdays. Hope is built for our teams to dash them. And eventually all those feelings culminate in the typical anguish that has been our calling card for too many tree rings.
Not to say that there hasn't been positive emotions. There have been plenty of those. There's the sense of domination we get from watching rugby and swimming do its thing. The women's basketball team gave us a wonderful run of hoops that really gave us something to cheer for. Even the men's basketball team has had plenty of pleasant memories the past few years, filled with mild upsets and surprising runs and crazy efforts. There was satisfaction and surprise at some of these accomplishments, but it was weaved into the overall tapestry rather than any singular points standing out on their own.
We've been starving for joy. Not the joy that comes with any victory or even a slightly surprising upset, but the unbridled enthusiasm that comes with the great moments, the biggest upsets, the feeling that we're relevant in some way. There are a few chances to do something legendary and memorable, and for the past few years the Bears haven't done much with those chances.
Joy is needed in Cal sports, particularly at a place like this, at a time like this. In a world where college athletics seems to be moving ahead of academics in its importance in the national landscape, our university has done its best to go in the opposite direction. I'm not a fan of either trend, but our approach seems to breed so many negative feelings that it sets everyone against each other. It's sad to see the university fight itself on what it wants to be when it has the potential to put those feelings aside and work together to build something bigger.
Because as great as academics are and as prideful as we might be about or rankings and our Nobel Prizes, sports can provide that extra level of joy that doesn't come with anything else. It shouldn't be neglected or denied. It should be celebrated as part of what it means to be Golden Bears.
Tonight, joy came flowing out. It was glorious.
Joy. I missed you joy. It needs to be bottled and stored and kept and released for every bad moment we have to deal with for the rest of eternity.
YES CAL FANS, IT IS VERY POSSIBLE TO HAVE AWESOME THINGS TOO.
WE TOOK DOWN NUMBER ONE. JOY!!!
- So, Justin Cobbs had a game-winner. Let's rewatch it again. Then a thousand times after that.
- It's really kind of understating it. Justin Cobbs hit several game-winning shots against Arizona. Like say EVERY single shot for the Bears in the final 11 minutes.
- Final 11 minutes
Cobbs: 3-5 FGs, 6-6 FTs
Rest of team: 0-6
- Cobbs hasn't just become the closer; he's become the custodian, the interior decorator, the architect and the engineer. Every game, every defense knows that Cobbs is going to take over in crunch time. Every game, crunch time gets longer and harder and harsher. And almost every game Cobbs goes ahead and gets his buckets anyway to drag us back into it or take us home. Last year he had Crabbe to help him down the stretch; this year it's just the Cal defense and a whole lot of guts, more guts than I can possibly expend in a lifetime of mediocre Internet columns.
- On that final possession, I was screaming, "TIMEOUT! TIMEOUT!" because I knew Cobbs was going to do exactly what he did Wednesday. Except this was Arizona and the Wildcats weren't going to let him get to his spot and the shot would be a thousand times more difficult and if the switch came the shot would be a thousand times tougher against Arizona's bigs and my hands are on my head and oh god how can that possibly go in and WHYYYY AM I JUMPING SO HIIIIIIIGH...
- Starts are just as important as finishes, and Richard Solomon helped set up Cobbs's heroics. With the entire Cal guard and wing lineup struggling to shoot early (4-14 in the first half), Solomon played his best basketball since the tournament. 6-6 shooting, 12 points, 7 rebounds. Arizona would eventually ramp up on Solomon and get him into foul trouble early in the second (he didn't score or grab a rebound, although he had a crucial strip late that was nearly his fifth foul), but his contributions early put Cal up and kept them up for most of the game.
- It's so crazy how our fortunes seem to revolve around Tyrone Wallace's scoring, but that's how life goes. When he's off our offense rivals a decent Big West team, and when he's on, we are capable of competing with anyone. He didn't shoot particularly well (4-11), but his three triples seemed to negate all of that. Two of them quelled mini-Arizona runs that prolonged Cal's lead just a little longer, and his defense on Nick Johnson bottled him up all night.
- David Kravish seems like he's back from his ailments. He took the most shots on the team and made almost half of them. More importantly for the overall gameplan, he backed off his big responsibility (usually Aaron Gordon) and kept him in front and made him take jumpers. Solomon and Kravish had 20 points and 13 rebounds in that first half. With Solomon on the bench for most of the second, Kravish had to gut through all 20 minutes without breaks (just like Wallace and Cobbs) and just did his thing.
- How about that Cal defense? The Bears finally abandoned that switching defense that had served them poorly the past two weeks, and just decided it would be best to have five guys hang out in the paint most of the night in semi-zone, semi-man. Arizona was dared to take as many threes and long twos as they wanted. 2-11 on threes, 32% shooting. The decision paid off great.
- We'd be remiss to say this game became much more winnable when Brandon Ashley left early, and Arizona clearly missed him down the stretch when the offense became Tarczewski-centric and Ashley couldn't stretch the floor with his jump shooting ability. Ashley might be done for the season with a broken foot, which is a real shame for a Wildcat team challenging for a title.
- Cal couldn't run away from Arizona. The Wildcats are still a better team than the Bears in many regards even with that injury, and they took advantage of their athletic talents on the glass. 14 offensive rebounds gave Arizona so many second chances and extra shots that allowed Arizona to get back in the game despite all the bad shooting.
- All those extra opportunities also led to more free throws, and the Wildcats freakily made all of them. That was partly due to the fact that Cal really had no one who could guard Tarczewski. Much of Arizona's second-half offense was predicated on Tarczewski getting the ball, getting fouled by someone and nailing more free throws. 12-12 from the line, 16-16 for Arizona overall.
- I hear there are some Arizona fans still passed out at Haas Pavilion after complaining about the fans rushing the court prematurely and that a technical foul should have been called so the Wildcats could have sent them to overtime. I'm here to send them home. According to the NCAA rulebook (HT CalFan4Ever)
"Team followers, as in Rule 4-27, shall not commit an unsportsmanlike act, including, but not limited to, the following: … Delaying the game by preventing the ball from being promptly made live or by preventing continuous play, such as but not limited to, followers entering the playing court before the player activity has been terminated. When the delay does not interfere with play, it shall be ignored."
- I could be exaggerating, but these felt like actual announcing exchanges last night.
Announcer no-name: Arizona was doing their thing. Dan, what do you think Arizona can do to get back on front and reclaim their place as the Number One team in the history of mankind?
Analyst Dan Bela Lugosi: Well, they have to be aggressive, attack the basket, and sometimes attack a few Cal players. Fisticuffs I mean. Jordan Matthews wouldn't hold up and the Wildcats would be in great shape.
Announcer no-name: And Arizona goes down to the ground with the ball...
D. Bela Lugosi: CALL TIMEOUT! CALL TIMEOUT! HERE I'll JUMP ONTO THE COURT AND CALL THE TIMEOUT FOR YOU! STEVE KERR, CAN I POLISH YOUR SHOES AFTER THE GAME?
- I know there are millions of smart, passionate basketball fans out there. Can they do this announcing thing? Do we have to put together a KickStarter to get Roxy Bernstein back on Cal games again?
Monty must be really annoyed that he has to turn around and get this team prepared for Stanfurd in a matter of three days, because with that short of a turnaround it's inevitable there will be a bit of a letdown from a win like this, even against a rival. It's never easy to sweep a rival that's about on our level, and the Cardinal are peaking too. Luckily Cal might have Ricky Kreklow ready to go, and he can make the Bears a totally different team if he's operating at peak efficiency.
So bottle your joy up and keep it somewhere safe. We don't know where this strange season is taking us yet. This might be the best we get or the start of even greater things. We have to be ready for the next time joy envelops us again.