Cal Men's Basketball opens conference play with 73-61 victory over Oregon State
Jordan Shepherd registers 25 points in the win
On Wednesday night, the Oregon State Beavers men’s basketball team entered Haas Pavilion with a 1-6 record. Nevertheless, Ken Pomeroy had them just 15 spots below the California Golden Bears in his national rankings. While OSU is not a candidate to win the Pac-12, it’s true that they have lost two games by a single point each and another contest by only three. The Beavers also boast a standout player in Warith Alatishe who gave them a legitimate chance to win for the first time since defeating Portland State on November 9.
Despite a couple of disappointing losses in the early going, Cal seemed to be on an upward trajectory heading into their conference opener. A narrow loss to a highly ranked Seton Hall team followed by a resilient victory over Fresno State gave fans a reason to hope. In addition, Oregon State ranked dead last in the Pac-12 in Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency and 10th on the offensive side of the ledger. While Cal ranked 11th offensively, their 5th ranked defense is good for 68th overall in Division I. Despite forcing only seven turnovers in the game, Cal held the Beavers to 43 percent shooting from the field in a 73-61 win to begin conference play.
Things began auspiciously for the Bears, who built a 19-9 lead just over eight minutes into the first half. Joel Brown opened the scoring on a layup following a smooth drive to the hoop. Brown ended with only two points and committed five turnovers but did chip in with seven rebounds along with three assists. Andre Kelly followed with a pretty post move to score against a double team, then Grant Anticevich converted an easy look. It was a balanced attack early, with Jordan Shepherd and Lars Thiemann also cashing in layups. To add insult to injury for the road team, Tre’ Williams was whistled for a technical foul which led to two made free throws for Anticevich.
Makale Foreman and Sam Alajiki would hit from 3-point range, then Shepherd joined the party by making a pair of treys himself. One of those was a heat check from the half court logo “C” with just under eight minutes remaining in the half. Cal came into the night shooting 36 percent from downtown, which ranked second best in the Pac-12. The Bears were only 5-for-17 in this contest, partially because Anticevich missed all five of his attempts from behind the arc despite ending with a respectable 12 points. Cal led 34-21 with just over five minutes left in the stanza, but the Beavers used the rest of the half to make the home crowd nervous. They accomplished this with a 12-0 run capped by a Dashawn Davis layup as time expired. All of a sudden, California led just 34-33 and desperately needed to regroup.
On the postgame show, Casey Jacobsen asked Shepherd what head coach Mark Fox said during halftime. The message to players was that they needed to learn how to play with a lead. Cal ended up jumping out to a double digit advantage and the scoreboard read 49-36 with 14:24 left to play. All of the offense in that span came from Shepherd and Kelly. In fact, Kelly has converted a whopping 77 percent from the field in his last four appearances. He has also piled up four double-doubles this season after previously earning a total of four in his entire college career. His final stat line against the Beavers included 20 points and 13 boards. Shepherd’s highlights included a 3-point dagger and a driving layup that seemed to demoralize the opposition even further.
Fox probably hoped for more contributions from Jalen Celestine on this night. The sophomore guard played 26 minutes, finishing with two points and five rebounds without registering an attempt from the field. While Kuany Kuany also scored just two points in 19 minutes, he delivered a pair of blocks in the first four minutes of the second half. First he turned Ahmad Rand away on OSU’s first possession. A couple of minutes later, Gianni Hunt felt the sting of Kuany’s wingspan.
For the Beavers, Alatishe was an efficient 9-for-12 from the floor. He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and an assist. The only other OSU player in double figures was Davis, who contributed 14 points off the bench. In fact, only two Oregon State players have averaged double digit points: Alatishe and Jarod Lucas. Maurice Calloo would add eight points of his own in the losing effort. Unfortunately for Oregon State, Cal held Lucas to five attempts from the floor and only two points. The Bears hauled in 42 rebounds compared to only 24 for the visitors. Even so, Rand scored five points in about 30 seconds. Then, Alatishe and Davis combined to cut Cal’s lead to only seven. It was now 60-53 with 4:10 on the clock.
Fortunately for anyone feeling a little nervous, Shepherd didn’t ease off the gas. The graduate transfer from Charlotte made an impressive high arcing jumper as part of his dash to 25 points for the night. Soon, an advantage of seven points had ballooned to 73-61 at the buzzer and Shepherd was discussing how he never lost confidence even when his shot wasn’t always falling in prior games.
While Oregon State did not present a formidable defensive challenge, Cal fans would certainly love to see the team shoot 50 percent from the field and 84 percent at the foul line in future games. The 4-4 Bears will face a fairly difficult test on Sunday when they play a road game against Utah. Nevertheless, the resilience shown on this night should provide motivation and the belief that they can steal some games in the future.