Cal loses unwatchable game to Washington
An ugly, foul-filled game ends in another defeat
I was occupied earlier in the evening, and wasn’t able to tune into the game until late in the 2nd half. I arrived in time to watch a Cal comeback attempt foiled, in part, by a Mark Fox technical foul. Not having seen any of the game up to that point, I was annoyed that Fox would commit a costly foul when down.
Later, I went back and watched the entire game, and am tempted to give Fox a pass. The refs took the game over long before Fox’s technical foul, and I could understand why he lost his cool.
The game saw 46 total fouls called, and there was no particular rhyme or reason to what was or wasn’t called. I don’t think that either team benefitted more or less from the ref randomness, though certain individual players (UW’s Braxton Meah, Cal’s Monty Bowser) suffered from soft, soft calls.
Most notably, the game featured SEVEN technical fouls, included back-to-back techs on Bowser, both (presumably) for what he said to a ref after picking up his 4th common foul. As a result, this otherwise forgettable game does have some memorable weirdness - you don’t often see a ‘6’ in the foul column of a college basketball game:
The Pac-12 network caught pretty good footage of Bowser as the 2nd technical foul happened. Bowser couldn’t have said much and wasn’t looking in the direction of the ref who made the call, so either that ref has spectacular hearing or very thin skin.
In addition to the sheer volume of foul calls, the game featured a ton of Washington flopping (some called, some not) and multiple long monitor reviews largely over shot clock/timing issues. This all combined to slow the game to a crawl - the entire affair took 2 hours and 15 minutes to finish - and had no rhythm at all.
Beyond the reffing spectacle, this game was a stylistic slog. UW’s zone and 3 quarter court press frequently slowed Cal possessions into even more of a slog than usual, and Cal often struggled to get shots off (or in some cases, advance the ball past mid-court). Neither team could shoot the ball, and on the rare occasions that anything fun happened the refs quickly stepped in to break up the flow.
This game was one of a small handful where you could realistically imagine Cal winning. UW is maybe the worst team in the Pac-12 other than Cal/Oregon State, and they have some pretty clear flaws. And Cal did a lot of things that could have led to the mild upset win. Cal narrowly won the turnover battle, and really hit the offensive glass hard against UW’s zone, and pulled down 17 offensive boards. As a result, Cal dominated the shot volume battle, attempting 15 more shots than UW.
But if you can’t make a shot it doesn’t matter how many you attempt. And when you’re one of the worst shooting teams in the country . . .
. . . then you’re having lots of games where you can’t hit anything. Cal shot 37% on their 2s, and 12.5% on their 3s, and that gave UW enough room to pull away for a reasonably comfortable road win.
When you’re 3-25 and you play a game where you’re called for 4 technical fouls, it’s easy to craft a narrative that this is the game where the frustration boiled over. Frankly, having watched all of the technical fouls, I’m not particularly sure that’s the case. Bowser maybe earned one technical foul but it sure seemed more like lame reffing that earned him two back-to-back. Kuany’s technical foul followed the most benign argument between two players that I’ve ever seen result in dual offsetting techs. And Fox’s technical is far from out of character for a coach who hasn’t ever been a huge fan of the officials.
And again, I think the effort was there from Cal today. Cal fought really hard on the glass all game long, they played physical defense, they scrapped and poked balls loose.
It’s not lack of effort, it’s a lack of cohesions, of a viable plan. It’s a team where you have a guard shading a player to drive one side where there is no help defender available. It’s a team where there’s no clear plan to break down a zone, resulting in a bunch of turnovers and doomed, late-shot-clock prayers.
We are at the point of watching the death throes. Almost reading like a post mortem. I'm only watching these sites for the news of firing and new search. Much like waiting for your best friend to finally break up with his girlfriend. Just do it, buddy, and begin the healing process.
I've thought all season that this was a collection of individuals rather than a team. Whenever anyone gets the ball, they look to score rather than looking for an open player. There are zillions of examples from games throughout the season, but one that sticks out from last night was around the 1:40 mark toward the end of the game when Newell had a two-on-one situation with Okafor wide open underneath the basket. Instead of passing to Okafor, Newell took a contested jumper and missed. Why not dump it off to Okafor for a dunk? The team never seemed to find the open man all season and instead kept tried to create something. I don't get the feeling that they're egotistical ball hogs; instead, they just haven't been coached to look for an open player...
The refs must have felt that they needed to get control of a game that was getting getting very chippy, especially that one ref who needed a technical himself. I will say that Okafor deserved one for knocking the ball out of the UW player's hand.
What happened to singing the alma mater before games? And, why doesn't the band strike up "Fight for California" when the team comes back out at the end of halftime?
On the other hand, both the dance and cheer teams have looked good this year. They're really crisp and coordinated. I have to applaud the new coach (and actually went and told her that at one of the women's games a few weeks ago).
It's Senior Day on Saturday: watch the women play at Colorado (11am start), and then head over the Haas to support the seniors. As much as we detest Fox, let's show some support for the seniors (and the rest of the team).