Let’s start with 20 seconds of the video below.
As a Manchester United fan, nothing brings me more joy than watching Liverpool fans at rock bottom, but I have to say, that emotion is as close to where most fans, that are still watching at this point, were after the loss. Also make sure to check your bingo board for Cal Men’s Basketball this year, and see if you had “lose-by-missing-end-of-regulation-free-throws” on your board.
There’s not much to go over in terms of the game, the Bears didn’t play terribly, and the Utes did not play great as well. Just look at the stats above. There isn’t much separating the two. The Bears outrebounded the Utes, but the Utes scored 9 more points off of 5 more turnovers. There was a give-and-take element of a balanced fight between two squads. It was evenly matched outside of the final few minutes where, what looked like a sure-fire win, turned into a smash-and-grab opportunity for the Bears to kill their losing streak. The Utes would fumble away an inbound pass allowing Andre Kelly to recover the ball, pass to Matt Bradley, and set the screen for him. Matt would turn the corner off of the pick and be greeted with the greenest pasture for either a short drive or a wide-open 3. He would take the 3 to go for the win, but while it missed, he took the shot so early in the remaining time that it allowed Andre Kelly, who had rolled to the basket after the pick, to recover the rebound and be fouled on the quick attempt to go back up. The referees would go over the play and find that there was .7 second left on the clock at the time of the foul. Andre had 2 free throws to tie the game. The first one was key, but that one would clang off the iron, sounding off like a bell ushering in the 7th consecutive loss. It was such a clear and uninterrupted sound. Beautiful in a way. Poetic. The second free throw, which HAD to be missed for Cal to have a chance, quietly and cleanly sank through the rim. You almost had to rewatch to make sure the ball had even gone through the rim. I shouldn’t be shocked really, considering some of the other ways we had lost this year that this was also in cards. It’s somehow destiny at some point for us to lose games this season in every heart wrenching (and hilarious for a third party non-invested viewer) possible method.
The late-game management is also a big question mark, as brought up by Nick in our writer slack channel. And it’s true. We started our fouling way too late to try and go for quick 2s, and we were taking too long in setup to try and steal this game without fouling. There was too much confusion and not enough organization in what the staff wanted the players to do. The ATO setup was solid, but anything within the flow of play left you confused as to what the team was looking to do.
And now this team and Mark Fox has reached a trajectory crossroads. Any more losses on the year would mean the Bears finish with more conference losses than last season. Fox and co. won 7 conference games last season, and won 5 by this point in the conference schedule. Wyking Jones never won more than 2 conference games in any of his seasons as head coach. Mark Fox now has 5 games to make sure he doesn’t reach that level. To add to the historic low that Cal is potentially facing, Fox’s defense currently rates just .1 better in defensive efficiency than the Wyking Jones team in 2018. They currently rank in the bottom 2 of most statistical categories on defense and the bottom 3 on offense. There are now serious questions that need to be asked of this current regime. It’s close to the end of the season, and the Bears have not had a single game canceled or postponed in conference play. They’re the only team that’s played all of their conference games, but we haven’t seen any real improvement or growth from any of the youngsters on a relatively young team. Instead, we’re relying heavily on 2 grad transfers who have been played and pushed so hard, Ryan Betley needed some limited time according to Mike Montgomery on the Pac-12 Broadcast. It’s clear we’re trying to win now with the roster we have, but the roster we have is more geared towards long term growth. Things just don’t feel like they’re adding up this year from whatever progress we made last season, and it feels more and more like the pandemic isn’t a reason behind it. A lot of questions for the end of the season.
We keep moving.
We move to the Colorado game.
Beat the Buffs.