Well then. That was quite a game that was never supposed to be much of a game to begin with. I am not sure I have ever seen a worse half of Cal basketball than the one tonight against Incarnate Word. Which half was that you ask? Onto the wrap!
First, a few fun facts about Incarnate Word:
- They were the first American university to get approved by the government of China to offer accredited degrees in mainland China
- They haven't beaten a division one opponent this year
- David Robinson, the Admiral, received his Masters from Incarnate Word
The first five minutes were a great example of terrible offensive execution with neither team able to do much of anything with the ball. The Bears would eventually go up six with 12:20 to play in the half and start to dominate Incarnate Word defensively. Sadly, this would not continue.
Cal went cold as ice on offense as they continued to miss free throws, lack any true offensive strategy while waffling between a poor jump shooting team and one that can dominate you down low. I was definitely doing my best, "It's ok Andy, it's not time to freak out yet", until the announcers started talking about how Ivan Rabb wasn't ready for the next level while playing INCARNATE WORD.
Cal's offense was borderline unwatchable as the first half started to conclude. Cal would eventually go down five, yes five points, with five minutes remaining. In the waning minutes, the Bears got the ball with 11 seconds left and hit Jabari Bird on the outside who drilled a three as time ran out. After the first half, Cal with it's most talented roster in years, was tied with a team that is ineligible to play in the NCAA tournament this season.
Out of the break, the Bears jumped out to a quick lead easing some of the pain for the old blues in attendance. Incarnate Word decided to move away from their zone defense and play man which left them vulnerable to Cal's athleticism. Cal was able to move the ball in transition and benefitted from an energetic approach on defense that was missing in action in the first half. Jaylen Brown threw down two dunks, each of which will be A+ material for the season highlight reel. Jaylen can truly fly and it's a beautiful thing to watch. As things started to swing Cal's way, it seemed liked the Bears would be in cruise control for the rest of the game, except they weren't.
With about ten minutes left to play in the game, Tyrone Wallace hit a three to put Cal up 13 which is oddly enough where things started to fall apart again for the Bears. Jaylen Brown led the turnover brigade as he was progressively more careless with the ball. It started to feel as though each opportunity to build an insurmountable lead was dismantled with yet another turnover by the Bears. Incarnate would get a bit lucky on a couple offensive baskets including a banked three to start to claw their way back into the game.
Within five and a half minutes to play, Tyrone Wallace passed the ball to Incarnate Ward who then finished a wide open layup to bring the game within five. This is where somebody hit my panic button and I began to lose it. Within four minutes left in the game, Jaylen Brown picked up another careless foul which put Incarnate Word on the line with a chance to bring it to a one possession game. Let's just let that sink in a bit. A one possession game between Cal and Incarnate Word with four minutes to go.
Fortunately for Cal fans and my mental health, that is the closest Incarnate would come to the Bears for the final three and a half minutes. Ivan Rabb went to the line and missed his second free throw which Jabari quickly put back in to lift the lead to seven. Tyrone Wallace, in another transition play, would finish a great running layup to bring the lead to nine. He would finally ice the game for good on a sweet mid-range jumper which allowed the Bears to coast towards a twelve point win.
It sure does seem like nothing comes easy for the Bears these days whether it's football, basketball or contract negotiations. Perhaps this is reality with so much young talent dictating our success and energy. There will be (rightfully so) a lot of blame put on the coaches for Cal's incredibly flat effort in the first half and unimaginative offensive schemes. It is hard to understand why Cal's offense moves away from Rabb when it seemed he had the best matchup of the night.
In my opinion, Rabb was the player of the game finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds. His hands and athleticism at his position are extremely rare and we have to find a way to get him involved earlier in games.
Perhaps this is a good lesson for a young team to learn before a well coached St. Mary's team comes into town over the weekend. If the Bears come out this flat against the Gaels, expect St. Mary's to put Cal away and send us further into our dismay over the underwhelming non-conference play thus far.