When last we met, Cal and UW were coming off of upset losses to Cal-State Bakersfield and Stony Brook, respectively. The high flying Huskies were otherwise undefeated and enjoyed a top-25 ranking. Cal had finally notched that elusive quality win in non-conference play, and were hoping a strong conference run would let them cash in Syracuse' pelt for post-season considerations.
In what may be one of the all-time spectacular coaching jobs, Lorenzo Romar carefully tailored his game plan to ignore all of Cal's weaknesses while allowing our limited offense to break the 80-point plateau for only the third time this season. David Kravish re-established himself in the paint, Jordan Mathews dropped bombs from everywhere, and Ty Wallace clinched it with clutch free throws. Haas was rocking and our hopes and dreams for a successful season remained cheerfully intact.
And then the rest of the year happened. Little did we know that this would be our lone conference win for a very long time. Meanwhile, UW turned a stumble into a full-on face plant with three consecutive losses. They righted themselves with three straight wins, including a home sweep over the Oregon schools and an impressive road win at Colorado before getting buzz-sawed by the Utes and beaten down by the Furds.
As we stand now, Washington is middle of the pack while we have firmly established our credentials as one of the conference door mats. The numbers are not surprisingly rather unkind; UW's are average while we have the worst offense in the Pac-12 by a large margin. If there's one area where we remain mediocre rather than historically tragic, our once stout defense is only third-worst. Thank Oski for small favors.
Somehow, our computer overlords only predict a Husky victory with 87% certainty. I suppose the Romar factor is worth 12%. Surely he wouldn't ignore our best perimeter scoring threat while allowing Wallace to drive the lane freely and make this an up/down game instead of pounding us mercilessly inside...again?
G Nigel Williams-Goss (So.) 6'3" 190 lbs 14.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.3 apg
G Andrew Andrews (Jr.) 6'2" 195 lbs 12.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 35.7% FG
G Mike Anderson (Sr.) 6'4" 205 lbs 7.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg
F Shawn Kemp Jr. (Sr.) 6'9" 255 lbs 10.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg 62.8% FG%
F Jernard Jerreau (Jr.) 6'10" 240 lbs 5.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg
G Darin Johnson (So.) 6'5" 200 lbs
F Donaven Dorsey (Fr.) 6'7" 215 lbs
G/F Quevyn Winters (Jr.) 6'5" 205 lbs
C Robert Upshaw (Jr.) 7'0" 250 lbs 10.8 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.4 bpg ***Dismissed from team***
The faces are the same from Trace Travers' excellent preview earlier in the year:
Upshaw, a transfer from Fresno State, is the sixth man for this team, providing rim protection that the Huskies lacked last year. Shawn "Drizzle Boy" Kemp Jr. has been excellent in shooting the ball, though he only takes about seven shots a game. He has a higher field goal percentage than he does with free throws, which sounds familiar. Andrew Andrews has a silly name, and his shot selection has been less than satisfactory. Nigel Williams-Goss is the guy with the most potential amongst the team, and his statistical prowess has proved that. Williams-Goss and Upshaw will be the two biggest problems the Bears will face on Friday.
As Trace had predicted, Williams-Goss and Upshaw have been the two dominant forces for the Huskies. We didn't remotely slow either of them down last game as Williams-Goss went for 19, 8 boards, and 9 assists while Upshaw at 16, 8 boards, and 5 blocks. Naturally, it took sixteen games before Romar decided to move his best post player into the starting lineup. We should have no problems negating Upshaw this game, however, as he was recently dismissed from the team for an unspecified violation. Normally, you'd circle this development as a huge edge inside for Cal. But we simply haven't shown the ability to score from low block with any consistency. So instead, it looks like we're somewhat less likely to get dominated in the paint. Whether we're able to take advantage of their missing shot-blocker to generate points at the rim will be another question entirely.
Keys to the Game:
1) Fight for California
The season is "lost", but it will say a lot about our guys and our new coach if they refuse to mail it in.
2) Win the little battles
Each game is a chance to get better. Move our feet, don't reach, and force contested shots. Box out. Set solid picks, move without the basketball, swing the ball, and take the open shot. Even if the results aren't in our favor, we need to focus on playing better team ball.
3) Play without fear
As a collective group, we've been playing tight and alternate between playing like we're afraid to make mistakes to pressing and trying to do too much. We need to get over that mental hurdle and just play ball. Yes, easier written than said and done. But some of our more touted players could take a lesson from the littlest Bear, Brandon Chauca, and get feisty.
Tip-off: Sunday, Feb 1st, 2015 - 12pm
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KGO 810