By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–The last time Oregon State won at Haas Pavilion before Thursday night, President Obama lent relevance to the occasion with a good-natured phone call of congratulations.
Flash forward 12 years, and this time, no one was present to feel the Bears’ pain.
After pulling within two points of a tie, Cal went the final 94 seconds scoreless in an aggravating 59-57 loss to OSU.
Roman Silva scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime, and Ethan Thompson added 12 as the Beavers broke a nine-game losing streak in Berkeley, and beat Cal for the third time in a season for the first time since 1989.
Cal made its first seven shots of the ballgame and led 14-2 only to see OSU seize control with a 9-0 run to start the second half. The Bears shot 28 percent after the break, and missed 10 of their 11 3-point attempts as Matt Bradley, who finished with 20 points (14 after halftime), became their only reliable option with the game on the line.
Still coach Mark Fox pointed to his Bears’ defensive liabilities which allowed OSU to enjoy 38 points in the paint and mask an 0 for 10 showing at the 3-point line.
“It’s the defensive possessions in the second half that were the difference in the game,” Fox said. “We did not defend to the level that you need to to win.”
In 2009, then OSU coach Craig Robinson called for a pivotal switch in the second half to a trapping, full court press that befuddled Cal in a 65-61 loss. After the game, Robinson–Michelle Obama’s brother–received a call of congratulations from brother-in-law Barack Obama from the White House. This time, the teams played in an empty gym as mandated by COVID protocols and the only cheers were the self-congratulatory ones emanating from the OSU bench as Cal committed turnovers on both of their final possessions.
“We do good in spurts and stuff like that, but I think if we can finish games strong and have success, we’ll be okay.” said Andre Kelly, who finished with 15 points but conceded that his defense was subpar.
The Bears (3-16, 8-18) assured a last place finish with Thursday’s loss and they will open the Pac-12 Tournament as the 11th seed on March 10 matched against the sixth-seed. Arizona will not participate in the conference tournament as part of their self-imposed penalties surrounding recruiting impropreties that resulted in the imprisonment of former assistant coach Book Richardson.
The Bears conclude their home schedule on Saturday night when Oregon visits. The Ducks defeated Stanford 71-68 at Maples Pavilion.