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Late 2nd half surge not enough as Cal falls 81-71 to 4th ranked UCLA

Golden Bears made it interesting late, thanks to Don Coleman, but still suffered their 2nd loss in conference play.

NCAA Basketball: California at UCLA
As much as Kingsley Okoroh is a defensive stud for the Bears, he was posterized by UCLA’s TJ Leaf in this play (No.1 Play of the night on the 8 PM PT SportsCenter).
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A late furious comeback attempt led by JuCo transfer Don Coleman (who had 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting in the 2nd half) was not enough for the California Golden Bears (10-5), now 1-2 in Pac-12 play on the young conference season. U.C. Los Angeles, ranked 4th in the country, played a dominant 1st half to lead 44-24. The UCLA Bruins (15-1, 2-1 in Pac-12 play) lost that intensity late in the second half (essentially the 4th quarter of this game) to allow the Bears back in this game. Bears got as close as 5 points with 46 seconds left, but curiously did not foul right away to stop the clock. UCLA Bruins held on for the 81-71 win in Cal’s first true road game of the season.

Bears are still waiting for a signature win that would significantly boost their NCAA Tournament chances, after going 0 for 3 in these opportunities (vs. Virginia, vs. Arizona, at UCLA) in the past 4 games. Alas, we still have a long conference season ahead.

Despite the late charge, the Bears lost this game in the first half. After the first timeout of the game, it was all UCLA until the halftime buzzer. Garnering SportsCenter Top Play honor (in the 8 pm PT show at least), T.J. Leaf’s thunderous dunk over Kingsley Okoroh sparked the Bruins. Leaf finished the game with a double-double of 18 points to go with 11 rebounds.

With one of the top FG percentage in the nation coming into this game, the Bruins shot 17 of 33, including 6 of 14 from 3’s in the first half. Lonzo Ball, likely top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was on his way toward a triple double with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in the first half (Ball finished with 14 points, 5 boards, and 7 assists); even more impressively may be Ball’s 3 steals which led to easy Bruins points. Frustratingly, the Bears were unable to make any layups or dunks (when given the opportunities) in the first half; even more annoyingly, Bryce “Coaches’ son” Alford led the way for the Bruins with a game high 24 points (thanks to a game high 16 points at the half).

Starting for Sam Singer again, Grant Mullins was a bright spot for the Bears. Mullins hit 5 of 8 from beyond the arc to finish with 19 points to lead the Bears. On the other end of the spectrum, Jabari Bird hit merely one 3 in the first half. Even worse, Bird got into foul trouble in the 2nd half to eventually foul out without contributing much at all. Freshman Charlie Moore had another rough night shooting to finish the game with just 13 points on 5 of 17 shooting from the field.

Don Coleman did what we expected Moore to do late in this one for the Bears, making a variety of shots to pull the Bears close. Unfortunately, Coleman was called for a questionable offensive foul with the Bears trailing by 8 points with 1:24 left in regulation to doom the slim hope of a miraculous comeback.

Ivan Rabb finished the game with 17 points and 20 rebounds. Against future NBA talent, Rabb showed his ability to rebound at that level. I was hoping for a bigger offensive showing by Rabb in this one, but he was held to just 4 points on 1 of 3 shooting (the lone make was a 3 pointer) to go with 3 turnovers in the first half.

Not saying that this was the main culprit for tonight’s loss, but the Bears shot merely 10 of 18 from the charity stripes (Rabb was merely 6 of 9). It’s tough to leave points at the line while attempting to pull off a big road upset over a top 5 opponent.

If you are a glass half full kind of Cal fan, you can take solace on the the Bears not quitting and fighting back in the last 10 minutes (Bears were trailing 61-42 then). If you are a glass half empty kind of Cal fan, you will lament how UCLA, with their top recruiting class, is a class above this very talented Cal squad (when’s the next time that Cal Men’s Basketball will have an athlete of the caliber of an Ivan Rabb?). Since UCLA does not visit Berkeley this year, we will have to see if the Bears will get a chance to avenge this loss in either the Pac-12 Tournament or the NCAA Tournament (yep, I am still a firm believer that this team will be a tournament team whenever it realizes its potential.)


Ivan Rabb has his first career 20 rebound game tonight. He is the first Golden Bears to achieve this feat since Leon Powe in 2006 (against USC).

Kameron Rooks made a brief cameo in this game. Rooks, who has only started to practice last week after a knee injury, is not yet ready to contribute for the Bears.

For whatever reason, famed USC fan Snoop Dogg was in attendance at this game. Snoop’s son was on the UCLA football team before quitting.

Bears will next face USC on Sunday night at 7 PM PT (on ESPNU). The Trojans are ranked 25th in the country prior to tonight’s 72-56 victory over Stanford. Yes, they would be Bears’ 3rd ranked opponents in 4 games. It is just another opportunity for the Bears to get a key win to jump start the season.