Cal gives a better showing in win over OSU, need to play even better against next opponent Utah

March 9, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

AP17068037261422

By Morris Phillips

If the Cal Bears’ effort on Wednesday afternoon was akin to a roaring crowd trying to exhort their favorite band to leave their comfy, dressing room for one more encore, then the Bears prevented the house lights from being turned on–signaling the end of the concert–but weren’t nearly demonstrative enough to get the band back on stage for a couple more songs either.

After slipping past twelfth-seeded Oregon St. 67-62, the Bears could claim they were loud, but going forward, probably not loud enough.

Jabari Bird led Cal with 20 points, Ivan Rabb added 12 points,  13 rebounds and the Bears never trailed after the game’s first 10 minutes, but had their collective nerves exposed as the Beavers sliced their lead to four in the final minutes. The Bears held on, but a one-game win streak isn’t the three wins in three days they need to crash the NCAA tournament party.

On Thursday,  the Bears take on fourth-seeded Utah with the winner getting a shot at top-seeded Oregon on Friday.  In order to mask five losses in the previous six games, and only one win (at USC in January) against the Top 50, Cal will need to win at least twice more to entice the NCAA selection committee.

“We knew it would be tough just finding a way to win, get the rust off us,” coach Cuonzo Martin said.  “Felt like we were playing with a 15-pound vest on our backs.  We found a way to get the win, and now we can move forward.”

The Bears shot just 33 percent in their two, road losses last weekend, so 40 percent shooting against OSU wasn’t a sizeable improvement. But in this one the Bears had an offensive focal point in Bird, who hit three threes, including a critical one with 54 seconds remaining.

Bird’s offense and Cal’s huge advantage in rebounding were huge on a night when Grant Mullins (2 of 8 shooting) and Charlie Moore (3 of 12) couldn’t find the mark.  With Mullins and Moore struggling, Stephen Domingo stepped up with a couple of big buckets.  With Domingo adding 10 points,  the Bears had four, double-digit scorers in the game.

The Bears (20-11) are attempting to qualify for the Pac-12 tournament semifinals for the second straight year.

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