Cal men's basketball suffers another home heartbreaker, loses 59-57 to Oregon State

The Beavers best the Bears for the 3rd time this season

With 4 seconds left in regulation and down by a bucket, the Cal Bears got the needed stop when Andre Kelly secured the defensive rebound. Kelly passed the ball to the team’s best player Matt Bradley in transition. Bradley swiftly crossed the half-court with space in front of him. Head coach Mark Fox opted to not use the team’s final timeout. Rather than forcing a contested 3-point shot to get the win, Bradley attempted to get to the rim for an easier bucket. He made a crossover move to evade a back-paddling Oregon State defender.

In a microcosm of many Cal Men’s Basketball (8-18, 3-16 in Pac-12) home games this year, Matt Bradley fumbled the ball at the last second. Oregon State (12-11, 8-9 in Pac-12) escaped Haas Pavilion with only their 2nd road win of the season while also snapping a long losing streak at Haas dating back to 2009. The Bears lost a heart-breaker without being able to get a shot off to tie or win the game.

This was the Beavers’ 3rd win over the Bears in the weird 2020-21 college basketball season. The two teams played a non-conference game at Corvallis to open the year that was 71-63 in favor of the home team. Oregon State then won the second matchup, also in Corvallis, by a 73-64 final in early January where the Beavers overcame a double-digit first-half deficit that coincided with Matt Bradley injuring his ankles late in the first half. Bradley missed the second half of that game as well as the next 5 contests.

Does this closer deficit mean that the Bears have improved since the beginning of the season or the beginning of conference play? It is hard to make that argument.

Maybe it is the stricter COVID protocols that made road trips less pleasant, there appears to be more of a home/road disparity this year, particularly when it comes to teams visiting Haas. With a couple of exceptions, the Cal Bears played mostly non-competitive road games this year, but they are 6-7 at home with almost all of those losses being quite close until the final 5 minutes. Some very questionable clock management and bad executions have resulted in losses. Thursday night’s loss was another one of these.

The first half saw the Golden Bears jumping out to a big 20-9 lead, thanks to a slew of easy buckets scored by Andre Kelly who scored 11 of his eventual 15 points during this stretch. The lead stayed mostly at double-digit until the Beavers made a move with 6 minutes left in the first half to the Cal halftime lead to only 5.

Oregon State made some major adjustments at the half and decided to feed Roman Silva inside repeatedly. Silva eventually finished the game with a team-high and career-high 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field. Using his height advantage over Andre Kelly, Silva was nearly unstoppable in the second half when he scored 11 of his points. Lars Thiemann could have been a better matchup defensively on Silva but Fox apparently did not feel the need to play Thiemann more.

While one might think that Mark Fox will play the underclassmen on the team more in these final games of the season, a rather veteran backcourt of Makale Foreman and Ryan Betley got the starter over Jalen Celestine (who had that breakout game two weeks ago against Colorado) and Joel Brown. Brown and Celestine did eventually get more minutes than Betley, but none of them were able to make many outside shots as the four guards combined for 1 for 10 from outside.

Cal only made 2 of 17 3-point attempts (and one of the makes by Grant Antecevich was in the opening moments of the game) but that was still better than the 0 for 10 by Oregon State. I would not credit the weirdly contagious dearth of outside shooting in this game necessarily to brilliant defensive schemes.

After Oregon State pulled ahead early in the second half, Cal did answer initially using consecutive buckets by Matt Bradley, who had a good game with 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Sadly, this was the last time that the game was tied.

The Bears’ last field goal came with 3:29 left in this game. In the final few possessions, Matt Bradley made a nice play in drawing an offensive foul on Ethan Thompson to keep the deficit at 4 with 2 minutes left. But Cal’s only way to score point was Andre Kelly’s effort play in being fouled after grabbing offensive rebounds. Facing the Oregon State zone that the Bears have seen a couple of times already, Cal Bears played rather tentatively and unable to exploit how the Beavers were double-teaming Bradley.

The regular-season finale will be Saturday’s game against the Oregon Ducks. Then, it will be the Pac-12 tournament where the Bears have already clinched 11th and final seed (Arizona will not participate, as a part of their ultra-light self-punishment) and a potential first-round rematch against these Oregon State Beavers is a real possibility.

There are two more opportunities (at least) for the Bears to earn some positives results on the court in this frustrating season. Technically, with the pandemic suddenly canceling the Pac-12 tournament last year, Mark Fox’s Cal team does possess a 100% winning percentage there; however, winning a tournament will require teams to be able to make adjustments and manage the clock effectively to maximize their late-game opportunities - just the type of things that the Bears have continued to do poorly, all season long.