By Morris Phillips
The road trip that causes the most headaches in the Pac-12 starts in Seattle on a Thursday and leaves you feeling unsettled in Pullman, Washington on Saturday afternoon.
Bad weather, rough flight, slick roads and a quirky opponent in a mostly empty arena throw you off balance, and likely the Washington Huskies shook your confidence as well. Conference ballclubs aren’t at their best after going through the Northwest curveball machine.
The Bears were the latest testees who survived the first half, but finally slipped late in the second, losing 65-57 to Washington State. Cal was swept for the second weekend in a row and had issues trying to score in all four losses. On Saturday, coach Mark Fox was disappointed with the team’s rebounding, and not limiting the Cougars’ opportunities.
“I think it’s the third game in a row on the road where we had the lead at the half and we talked about trying to close it and finish it, and we just didn’t defensive rebound,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “We forced some misses, we gave up a rebound on free throw that cost us three.”
The back breaking sequence came with 2:52 and WSU’s Michael Flowers at the foul line shooting one-and-one. Flowers missed the first one but WSU rebounded and swung the ball to Flowers for an open three that he buried, extending the lead to five.
“We just didn’t do the right things to close the game in the second half,” Fox said.
Cal scored just 10 points after Andre Kelly got them even at 47 with 9:19 remaining. Flowers contributed 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and Andrej Jakimovski paced the Cougars with 18 points.
In seven of Cal’s nine losses–and three of the last four games–they’ve scored 60 points or fewer.
Cal starting guard Joel Brown attempted to fly from the East Bay to Pullman on Saturday morning after he cleared COVID restrictions that left him home isolation for seven days. Brown arrived after the game started and played just one minute when it became apparent he couldn’t ramp it up after a week without physical activity or basketball.
“You just take a roll of the dice and say, ‘Is it going to be like he can just step in here and we keep rolling?'” Fox said. “And you can tell he wasn’t ready and out of synch and understandably so.”
Shepherd led Cal with 17 points, Kelly had 12 and a season-best 14 rebounds.
The Bears return home to Haas Pavilion to face No. 6 Arizona on January 23 at noon.