18 28 point road loss to No.3 Arizona was not all that unexpected, yesterday's 18 point road loss to Arizona State was sadly not all that shocking either. Bears (18-11, 9-7) missed out on the chance to solidify their NCAA tournament resume. More importantly, the Bears are now requires some outside (but very plausible) help to get that first round bye (and avoid a possible disastrous 1st round rematch with USC) in the Pac-12 tournament. Let's take a look at the current Pac-12 standings.
It's important to note here that Stanfurd is playing Arizona on Sunday night. A likely loss by Furd would mean a 3-way tie with Cal and Colorado for 4th place. The way that the Pac-12 tiebreaker for the tournament seeding is determines mean that head-to-head is next. Both Cal and Furd hosts Colorado next week. Should both the Bears and Furd be able to win at home. The 1-1 h2h record between the Bay Area rival means that we have to go to the second tie-breaker, how they perform against the conference's best team, which is a title that Arizona has already clinched.
So barring an upset on Sunday night, Bears should still be in control of getting that 4th seed (unless I totally jinxed Arizona against Furd with this statement).
On to the game on Saturday, Bears had no answer for the hot Sun Devil (21-8, 10-6) shooting in the second half. ASU shot 20 for 29 (which is 69%), including 6 of 9 from 3's, in the second half. Key culprit for the Sun Devils were 5th year Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall (7 for 11 from the field including 6 of 8 from 3's) and
"two-point assassin" Jonathan Gilling (6 for 9, 2 of 4 from 3's). Marshall was the guy who hit the late 3 to tie things up during the previous meeting between the two teams in Berkeley.
On ASU's "Senior Day", senior Jordan Bachynski further cemented his candidacy as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year by recording 4 blocks (I think he average 4+ blocks again, so at least the Bears brought down that average slightly). More importantly, Cal's Richard Solomon was completely neutralized for the entire game.
Solomon was again in foul trouble in the first half (one of the fouls was of the offensive variety) and sat with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. For the game, Solomon only played 19 minutes. Even when he was on the court, Solomon was not all that assertive offensively. While some of the 1 for 6 could be blamed on the presence of Bachynski, Solomon's 2 points and just 8 boards was a key reason why the Bears suffered yet another blowout loss.
Possibly grasping for a silver lining, the only somewhat bright spot for the Bears was the 3-point shooting. Bears made 6 3's in 16 attempts. More importantly, however, is that 5 different Bears made at least 1 3-pointer (Jordan Mathews made 2).
In the first half, only 3 Bears was able to score. They (the only Bears to score in double digits) were Justin Cobbs (15 points for the game but just 1 assist - other people had to make buckets), David Kravish (12 points for the game), and Jordan Mathews (14 points for the game) off the bench. Despite foul troubles for Solomon and then Cobbs with 4 minutes left, Bears were in the game for most of the 1st half. When Solomon picked up his 2nd foul, Cal was up 14-10. When Cobbs got called for his 2nd, that was the Bears' last lead in the game at 22-20. ASU followed that up with a 9-2 run to close the first half for a 29-24 half time lead.
Coach Mike Montgomery said that the Bears "lost focus" at the end of the 1st half and that's when the game turned.
While Cal did finally start to get scoring from some other Bears, the second half was all Sun Devils. Possibly due to some hesitation from not wanting to pick up more fouls, Solomon couldn't stop the Sun Devils inside. To make things worse, ASU couldn't miss from 3-point land. While the team traded baskets for the first few minutes of the second half, ASU quickly went on a 21-10 run to build up a 17 point lead with 11 minutes left.
The final Cal attempt to get back to the game was fueled by Tyrone Wallace's brilliant 1.5 minute stretch where he made a 3-pointer, followed it up with a traditional 3 point play, and then got a jumper to fall (that all the points that he would score for the game). Wallace then got a steal and got fouled with a chance to cut the lead back down to 10. Unfortunately, Wallace missed both free throws, and it was never close after that, as Gilling hit a 3 right as the shot clock was about to expire.
The most memorable event for the rest of the game was Richard Solomon airballing a free throw attempt. The only positive thing that I can said about this was that at least this was not as scary as Jordan Mathews getting hurt at the end of the Arizona game. It turns out that Mathews was fine for Saturday's game. The same cannot be said, sadly, for Cal freshman Kameron Rooks, who is now out for the season with a foot injury.
The Bears are home to host the mountain schools next week. Both of those games are essentially "must-wins" for the Bears' NCAA tournament chances. Sadly, the Bears are now firmly in the "likely to make the tournament but may have to go to Dayton for the 'first round' game" situation.
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- Kameron Rooks out for the year with a foot injury
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