By Morris Phillips
Oregon State trailed Cal for 32 minutes Saturday afternoon but finished the game on a 10-1 run to beat the visiting Bears, 73-64.
The surprising outcome in which Cal blew a 11-point lead with less than 17 minutes remaining to remain winless in Pac-12 competition at 0-4 came amid the backdrop of COVID absences for Oregon State and the early departure of Cal’s leading scorer Matt Bradley with an ankle injury.
“We really had a difficult time without Matt,” said coach Mark Fox, who watched Bradley limp off three minutes before halftime. “Even though we played without him a week ago, it’s little harder against Pac-12 competition. That being said, if we make our free throws, we win the game. So disappointed in our performance at the free-throw line, and obviously in the second half we didn’t play nearly as well as we need to play to win on the road.”
The Bears shot 63 percent in establishing a 36-26 halftime lead, but saw their shooting cool considerably in the second half. More damaging was Cal’s defense which allowed 43 of OSU’s 73 points in the final 17 minutes, and their awful free throw shooting (14 of 28).
Ethan Thompson led OSU with 16 points. Maurice Calloo added 14 points, all of which came after halftime. Calloo’s third 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining increased the Beavers’ lead to 68-63.
Oregon State played without center Roman Silva and three assistant coaches due to COVID protocols which left the Beavers thin inside and head coach Wayne Tinkle no coaches to interact with. The COVID issues caused OSU’s game against Stanford on Thursday to be postponed until this Monday afternoon.
Makale Foreman, Andre Kelly and Jarred Hyder each tallied 12 points to lead Cal (5-6, 0-4). Foreman’s 3-pointer got Cal even, 63-63 with 3:22 remaining but Cal would manage just one made free throw after that as OSU took control.
The Bears lost for the second time at Gill Coliseum, having lost to the Beavers on November 25 in a hastily-arranged non-conference game. This one was much more competitive, but left greater frustration. The Bears likely will be without their top two scorers, Bradley and Grant Anticevich (appendectomy) for an indefinite period. Along with their issues against conference teams, they could be in for a continued rough stretch.
“It’s a challenge at both ends,” Fox said.
The Bears return to Berkeley with games against the Washington schools in the coming week.
REVISITING CAL’S RECENT PAST: The Bears welcomed Coach Mark Fox less than two years ago. At the same time, former coach Wyking Jones, and scholarship athletes Justice Sueing, Connor Vanover and Darius McNeill departed.
Two seasons prior to that shakeup coach Cuonzo Martin accepted a significant raise to coach the Missouri Tigers and leave Cal.
So what’s everybody up to?
On Saturday Martin’s 12th-ranked Tigers visited Arkansas, Vanover’s landing spot under coach Eric Musselman. Missouri kept things rolling with a 81-68 win to improve to 7-1. Martin’s fourth season in Columbia appears to be his best yet with the Tigers ranked and looking to make a second NCAA tournament appearance after two losing seasons.
And Vanover? Well he suffered his worst game, shooting 0 for 11 with just four points from the foul line. The 7’3″ center is averaging 9.6 ppg in 20 minutes for the Razorbacks.
After starting at Cal, McNeill is coming off the bench at SMU. The Mustangs have played just six games due to COVID issues, and McNeill missed one of those, but he had his best game earlier this week against Temple with 17 points.
Sueing saw action in all 63 games as a freshman and sophomore at Cal, averaging 14 ppg shooting 43 percent from the floor. But he seems better situated at No. 25 Ohio State as a starter on a far better and more balanced team scoring 11 ppg with 50 percent shooting. His minutes are down, but his wins are way up. In two seasons at Cal, Sueing, Vanover and McNeill were 16-47 with 31 Pac-12 losses.
Jones, the coach of those two Cal teams, remains on the sidelines, opting not to take any other coaching jobs after being let go by Cal with one season remaining on his deal.