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Cal Survives a Close Call Against Prairie View A&M

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A win’s a win: but much to learn, we still have

NCAA Basketball: Georgia at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

After an exhilarating win on Friday over Cal Baptist, many Cal fans thought that a 4-0 start to the 2019-2020 season would inevitably follow close behind. What we were not prepared for was the gritty battle fought between the Bears and the Prairie View A&M Panthers that ensued tonight. Fans in Haas Pavilion this evening had to buckle in and prepare their adrenal glands for another close finish, right on the heels of Cal’s OT win against UNLV last week.

The game featured a topsy-turvy 10 lead changes, and the Bears at many times just seemed dysfunctional. Our squad went on stretches for minutes at a time without scoring- this was not because of shooting inaccuracies, as our shooting percentages were not terrible (39% overall and 40% behind the arc). Rather, our offense seemed to stagnate, not able to get a solid shot at the basket for numerous possessions, allowing the Panthers to run the board while our players tried to blink the stars out of their eyes. After falling behind to Prairie View in the second half, I submit that it was our defense (yes, we can play D I suppose) that kept the Bears afloat and allowed them to take back and sustain the lead.

Throughout the game, the referees seemed a little overzealous with the whistle, and though both teams suffered similar foul issues, this certainly elongated the game to the point to consternation. In a game won by only 4 points where the Bears shot 21 free throws to the Panthers’ 9, this was certainly a difference-maker. Of those 21, we sunk 14, which was enough this game… but being able to capitalize on freebees on a game peppered with whistles would be nice.

The other common thread through tonight’s matchup was turnovers. Cal managed to turn the ball over 22 times in one evening, which the Panthers converted to 13 points. Many of these happened during California point droughts, which exacerbated the dire need to get some sort of competent offense and coherent communication out on the court. This game is the first on the books this season during which Cal left for halftime with the upper hand. While last Friday’s critique was consistently getting off to slow starts and having to play catchup on the other side, tonight it was a different story. This only furthers Cal fan’s confusion as to where their budding team went over the weekend, and how we came back looking so uncoordinated.

A few thoughts:

  • Matt Bradley proves he can handle pressure situations. He is one of the two Bears who scored in double figures, but settled at 16 points tonight below his season average.
  • Grant Anticevich was the other double figure player for Cal with 13 points. While not as hot as his monster game against Cal Baptist, he still maintained poise on the court and picked up 6 much-needed rebounds as well.
  • We seemed to be shut down in the paint, as balls just didn’t seem to find their mark from close range, drives to the net were met with mixed results, and oh-so many rebounds slipped through our fingers. The Bears almost seemed spacey when the ball leapt out of hands toward the hoop, and were reacting much slower than the Panthers (and it showed).
  • Joel Brown and Kareem South are proving valuable to get things moving when we aren’t connecting. But something I did notice is that some of our rotations are just not capable of making serious scoring moves. Hopefully this is something we can continue to improve upon, so that we don’t have to sacrifice offense for defense when reserves are in rotation.

The Bears pushed through a rather unpleasant game and stomached a variety of mistakes to pull through for a win. Optimistically speaking, this is a positive! It is easy to fold under circumstances such as these, and though demonstrated multiple times already this season, our players are capable of facing down deficits and overcoming them. Holding leads and consistency, on the other hand, need more work in order for our team to be competitive. I think it’s fair to say (though I don’t allow it as an excuse) that Cal was caught looking forward to their trip to Madison Square Garden to continue the 2K Empire Classic later this week in their matchup against Duke. This comes with a valuable lesson moving forward to take every game seriously; but for now, the Bears are 4-0 and are out on the road.