Cal Men's Basketball: Bears Drop 73-64 Decision to Oregon State

Cal loses Matt Bradley to injury, then lets the game slip away

For the Cal men’s basketball program, Saturday afternoon’s matchup with Oregon State seemed potentially winnable.  This seemed true even on the road, despite their loss to the Beavers on November 25 and regardless of the Bears’ struggles in conference games over the last several years.   After all, Cal displayed a lot of fight in their loss to a ranked Oregon squad on Thursday in Eugene.

California assembled a 36-26 lead over OSU at halftime, but Matt Bradley suffered a left ankle injury with just over two minutes left in the first half.  The injury seemed similar to the one he sustained against San Francisco on December 13, and the ankle was wrapped as he watched the second half.  Bradley had five points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.  

It took a while, but the game seemed to turn after Bradley exited.  Ethan Thompson led the Beavers with 16 points, while Maurice Calloo had 14 and Jarod Lucas scored 11.  Already without Grant Anticevich, who had an appendectomy last month, the Bears lost steam late.  Lars Thiemann made a couple of solid offensive plays in the first half including a mini-hook shot and a follow dunk. However, he was lost at the free-throw line where he finished 3-for-11.  Thiemann ended with seven points, nine rebounds, and a block.

Cal actually made 51% from the floor compared to 44% for OSU, but the Beavers finished ahead in free throw percentage and shot volume.  Oregon State also shot 9-for-20 from three-point range and outscored Cal 47-28 in the second half.  The Bears committed 13 turnovers compared to only nine for the home team.

While the final deficit was nine, a few more points at the right moments could have changed the outcome of the game.  After the game, Mark Fox announced that he feared Bradley could miss significant time.  The 5-6 Bears will be back in action against 8-1 Washington State on Thursday.  If I were to swap bodies with the head coach à la Freaky Friday, how would I handle this team going forward without two of its biggest contributors?

Give Thorpe a chance

Even if they hit the projections for their ceiling, the Bears were never expected to be a contender for the Pac-12 crown this season.  In that case, why not see what you have on this roster?  Fox has actually been forced into playing his bench more of late, and DJ Thorpe saw 13 minutes on Thursday against the Ducks.  However, he played just three minutes versus the Beavers even when Thiemann struggled down the stretch.  Thorpe has made six of his nine attempts from the field this season and appears to be shooting free throws better, albeit in a small sample size.  Fans aren’t turning on the television to see whether Cal is going to the NCAA Tournament, so why not give us a look at anyone who’s even mildly intriguing?

Utilize Brown’s speed

Joel Brown had six points, two rebounds, five assists, and two steals in this game.  Even better, his blazing quickness was on display several times.  When the Beavers made a bad pass and the ball ended up in the backcourt, Brown powered past the pack and drew a foul.  Brown also had a couple of terrific drives to the hoop that resulted in made layups.  Some facets of his game need work, but Cal could have benefited from more drive and kick action initiated by Brown as the offense stagnated in the second half.

Continue to integrate Hyder

Ever since Jarred Hyder was declared eligible on December 16, he has given Fox another option at guard.  The sophomore who transferred from Fresno State looked very good in 15 minutes on Saturday, burying a pair of threes while chipping in with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists.  I can understand that Fox wants to ease him into actual game action and this was his best game so far. Nevertheless, such a performance merits more playing time as long as stamina isn’t a major factor.

Feed Kelly

Andre Kelly played 29 minutes, which is three more than Thiemann.  He delivered a nice game, shooting 5-for-6 from the floor with 12 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one steal.  Kelly has made over 55% of field goal attempts this season and could have used more touches when the Bears kept sending the ball to Thiemann late in regulation.  He should surely receive increased opportunities if Anticevich and Bradley remain out of action for long.

Fire away

Taking and making more three-point shots is perhaps easier said than done.  Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman certainly benefit from the offense created by Bradley.  Nevertheless, the two graduate transfers were a combined 4-for-7 from behind the arc in Corvallis and a few more attempts could have tipped the scales. Foreman finished with 12 points and Betley had eight. Cal was only 6-for-17 from downtown, but results don’t always pass the eye test. Kuany Kuany, who missed both of his attempts from deep, had good looks that went halfway down and just didn’t fall.  For anyone on the squad with ability from long range, increasing the shot volume and staying confident could be key in conference play.