By Morris Phillips
The second half of Saturday’s California-Washington State game couldn’t have provided a greater contrast.
Washington State’s high volume turnover factory closed early, the Cougars shared the basketball beautifully, struggling Robert Franks caught on fire, and the smallish home crowd in Pullman sounded like a crowd.
At the same time, Cal wilted, displaying competitiveness akin to an off-season workout. But it wasn’t: the meeting of the two teams anchored to the bottom of the Pac-12 standings was instead was a critical moment, the Bears occasion to right their ship after three lopsided defeats. In the 20 minutes after the half, the Bears appeared almost disinterested.
Given the contrast, Coach Wyking Jones admitted he was bewildered.
“I’m just wondering which team is going to show up,” Jones said of his Bears. “There’s a team that battles and competes and executes and follows the game plan, and there’s the team that looks like this.”
After trailing 30-25 at halftime, Cal simply let this one get away. The Cougars outscored Cal by 20 in the second half and they registered an easy 78-53 win, WSU’s first in conference play after starting 0-4.
Meanwhile, Cal’s dropped four straight, all by double-digits, erasing any momentum built in their stirring comeback win at Stanford in the Pac-12 opener. The Bears scored just 53 points while totaling just six assists, both season lows.
Franks hit seven of his school-record 10 3-pointers in the second half, including three in less than 90 seconds as WSU increased their lead to 48-36 with 14:15 remaining. In all, the junior forward put up 25 of his career-best 34 points after halftime, capped off by a team statistician-mandated capper with 43 seconds remaining to set the record.
Franks’ breakout came after his self-admitted poor game against Stanford. That gave Jones another reason to be irked with his team.
“Somebody has to step up and say: ‘He’s not going to get five, six, seven, eight,” said Jones.
Justice Sueing led Cal with 14 points, well off his 27 against Washington on Thursday. Sueing played with great restraint against the Huskies. On Saturday, he appeared rushed, committing five of Cal’s 14 turnovers.
After 22 turnovers against Stanford, 23 against Washington, and 10 in the first half against Cal, the Cougars had just five turnovers in the second half.
“I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the ball and the big reason for that is not over-dribbling,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said. “This is a passing system, not a dribbling system.”
Cal returns home to face conference co-leaders Arizona on Wednesday at 6 pm PT. The No. 17 Wildcats are tied atop the standings with Stanford, winners of four straight.