By Morris Phillips
Throughout a difficult losing skid, and after an injury sidelined their leading scoring for the rest of the season, the Cal Bears kept it together. The payoff for all that focus and belief came Wednesday night.
Maurice Calloo’s improbable miss at the rim that would have sent the game into overtime, allowed the Bears to escape with a 63-61 win in Corvallis over Oregon State. Cal broke their 10-game losing streak, and won for the first time on the road this season.
“These young men weren’t winning but they were functioning like winners so you had to know things would eventually turn around if we did the right thing,” coach Mark Fox said.
The Bears (10-15, 3-11) trailed by one at the half, and never led by more than four points. That led them to a suspenseful conclusion in which Jordan Shepherd’s shot was goaltended with 18 seconds remaining, breaking a 61-61 tie.
Andre Kelly, Cal’s leading scorer who injured January 29 in a loss to USC was declared lost for the season before the game when medical tests on his ankle revealed significant damage. That again forced Fox to rethink his lineups, and depend on a smaller core of performers.
Against OSU, Grant Anticevich, Jalen Celestine, Joel Brown and Shepherd each logged at least 35 minutes, and Cal had to weather their own uneven play at points due to their reliance on the tighter rotation.
Calloo’s 3-pointer with 11:43 remaining put OSU up 47-42, but Cal responded with an 11-2 run to lead 53-49 with 6:47 left.
“We weren’t good defensively to start the second half, but once we strung together some stops, I felt like we settled in,” Fox said.
The Bears took advantage of Oregon State on the glass with 14 offensive rebounds leading to 17 points. That along with 10 steals offset Cal’s 36 percent shooting that was too poor to allow them to sustain any momentum.
Shepherd led Cal with 15 points, and Anticevich had 13 points, eight rebounds. Brown contributed nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists along with a stellar defensive job on OSU’s Jarod Lucas, who scored just two points after halftime.
“I’m super-proud of Joel. He really competed well tonight and I thought he was probably our MVP,” Fox said of Brown. “We had a lot of guys chip in and play well but he was the difference in this one.”
Last season the Beavers (3-18, 1-10) defeated Cal three times, and then the Bears were forced to watch the hosts improbable run, as OSU won the Pac-12 Tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. But those standout performers that led Oregon State have endured a rough season that’s landed them in last place in the conference.
Warith Alatishe was limited to 24 minutes on Wednesday and finished with seven points, seven rebounds while clearly favoring a previous knee injury.
Calloo led Oregon State with 18 points but missed 10 of his 16 shots from the field.
The Bears travel to Eugene on Saturday to face the Oregon Ducks at 1:00pm.