By Morris Phillips
If we know anything about the Cal Bears, them scoring 52 points is not good.
For the sixth time this season, the Bears posted exactly 52 points on Saturday afternoon at Washington. And for the fifth time, that meant a discouraging, double-digit loss in which the team’s offense disappeared without a moment’s notice.
“We’ve had some defeats,” coach Mark Fox said of the 87-52 loss to the Huskies. “But this one was a stinker.”
The Bears led 17-11 with 11:33 remaining in the first half, then went 15 minutes spanning the halves without a bucket. Trying to subsist on free throws alone, Cal found themselves trailing 43-26 at the half. Then after the halftime break, and likely after an earful from Fox, the Bears surrendered the first 11 points of the second half to fall behind by 28.
Cal fans needing to wrap their head around something to understand the Bears’ collapse instead were presented with a statistical oddity. In trailing 54-28, the Bears had missed 21 of their 25 shots from the field, while making all 16 of their free throws, which looked good, but did little to keep them in the game. And the wildly juxtaposed numbers didn’t end there: Cal had just three assists and 12 turnovers through the game’s first 24 minutes.
After the final whistle, the numbers weren’t much better for one of Division I’s most offensively challenged teams. Cal finished with just 11 made baskets and 17 turnovers in 40 minutes of hard-to-watch basketball.
Of course, the Huskies noticed very little of Cal’s struggles. The win ended a nine-game losing streak for the Pac-12’s most confounding team, one which came into the season with two elite freshman recruits and Top 25 expectations only to beat No. 1 Baylor in the season’s first month, then go into the tank. Even with the win, UW still sits in the conference basement at 13-15, 3-12.
But all the struggles didn’t prevent them from playing well on Saturday.
“We really locked in. We were really active. Guys did a good job of being focused and aware of what we were trying to do. And they executed it,” coach Mike Hopkins said.
After the game, Hopkins’ emotions surfaced in trying to thank the Washington fans for sticking with his group. The coach hilariously ended his press conference with a hopeful message, and a theatrical drop of the microphone as he departed.
“It shows you what this place can be and is going to be. So thank you fans out there. Go Dawgs!” Hopkins said in advance of his grand exit to humored laughs from the assembled journalists.
Cal was led by Matt Bradley with 14 points, but the Bears’ leading scorer missed eight of his 11 shots from the floor. Afterwards, the Huskies revealed that limiting Bradley was their top objective. No other Bears finished in double figures, Grant Anticevich and Kuany Kuany each had 7 points.
Nahziah Carter led UW with 16 points, freshman Isaiah Stewart had 15.
The Bears finish their home schedule this week starting with a visit from Colorado on Thursday at 6pm. Utah visits Haas Pavilion on Saturday.