By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, Calif. — Saturday was not the Pac-12’s finest hour, and the Cal Bears’ performance was partly responsible for what ranks among the darkest days for the Conference of Champions in men’s basketball.
The Bears (5-7) fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half, only to rally, but ultimately lose to Seattle, 82-73 at Haas Pavilion. The loss concluded Cal’s non-conference schedule without providing much belief that they can right the ship with Pac-12 play next up beginning Thursday at UCLA.
Coach Wyking Jones surely didn’t get any assurances from his team that they’ll be engaged come Thursday, not after they led 2-0 Saturday, only to fall behind 21-4 with 12:11 remaining before halftime.
“I don’t know why, but I have to do a better job of making sure that we’re ready to play,” Jones conceded. “I could see it in shootaround. The energy level wasn’t there for whatever reason, but we can’t dig ourselves a hole. Typically we start games well, but we weren’t ready to play today. We fought back, and had some energy and spurts, but you can’t dig yourself an 18-point hole and expect to win.”
The Bears got hurt in the paint, primarily by Myles Carter who post a career-best 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead Seattle. Seattle’s leading scorer Morgan Means added 24, which included a school-record 16 for 16 performance from the free throw line, eight of those in the final two minutes of the ballgame.
Matej Kavas, Seattle’s second leading scorer who has 36 3-pointers this season, missed the game with ankle injury suffered in the team’s most recent practice. But even that setback seemed to bolster the Redhawks as they intensified their attack inside where they enjoyed a 38-30 edge on the glass and scored 19 second chance points.
“We showed a lot of grit and hung in there for all 40 minutes,” said Seattle coach Jim Hayworth. “Morgan did a great job of leading and was spectacular from the free-throw line. And (Cal) had no answer for Myles who had a great game.”
The Bears were led by point guard Paris Austin with 20 points, 17 of those after halftime. Darius McNeill added 19, and Justice Sueing added 15.
Cal was one of five Pac-12 schools to lose non-conference games on Saturday, including the league’s only ranked team, No. 17 Arizona State which fell at home to Princeton, 67-66. UCLA was shocked by Liberty, losing 73-58 at Pauley Pavilion, a loss that Steve Alford said was the most disappointing in his 28 years of coaching.
Utah lost at home to No. 5 Nevada, and Washington State lost at home to Santa Clara. The league’s 38-36 record in December is the worst won-loss record of any major conference (including the Big East) in this month in the last 20 years, a fact revealed on ESPN.com’s front page, much to the Pac-12’s dismay.