Winning ugly: Cal doesn’t let poor shooting prevent a win against WSU

January 14, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA


By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–A few things transpired on the way to Jabari Bird becoming the 47th Golden Bear to score 1,000 points in his career.

Six, consecutive missed shots, a whole bunch of angst, and–fortunately for Cal–Bird’s short memory in effect.

“He has to keep shooting because the shots were there.  I don’t know if he was necessarily pressing.  The shots didn’t fall,” coach Cuonzo Martin said of Bird, who found himself with an open look at a three with a minute remaining in a close game on Saturday.

Bird’s three gave Cal a four-point cushion in a low-scoring game that featured missed shots more than anything else.   They would go on to beat Washington State,  58-54, giving the Bears a modest, three-game win streak following three losses in the previous four games.

Cal’s season, and their post-season aspirations seemingly rest on their ability to beat teams they’re supposed to beat, and WSU provided the latest test. While markedly better than the one-conference win Cougars of last year, this group still figures in the bottom third of the Pac-12 standings.

Against Cal, WSU appeared prepared, especially in how to limit Cal offensively. Coach Ernie Kent had his Cougars focused on stopping Cal star Ivan Rabb, who didn’t score his initial basket until the game was 17 minutes in, and Cal trailed by six.

But in both halves, things swung decidedly to Cal in the final moments.

In the second half, and the score tied at 50, the Bears finished the job with a Charlie Moore layup preceding Bird’s big three with 52 seconds remaining.

Bird had missed all six shots he attempted before draining the last one. That gave Cal the cushion they needed, but also gave Bird his 1,000 career points.

“I didn’t really think of the 1000th point,” Rabb said of Bird’s feat. “I didn’t think he was really pressing for it.  As soon as he made that shot, I think somebody said it and I heard it, so really congratulations to Jabari.  He made it big at the end of the game, scoring big points and getting his 1000th point at the end of the game.”

The Bears improved to 4-2 in conference play with the win, which keeps them squarely among the Pac-12’s upper crust.  That perch will be tested next weekend when the Bears visit Utah and Colorado.





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