I don’t know how many of you actually saw the basketball game Saturday night at Oregon (given that it was on Comcast Sports Net, I’d guess not too many of you), but if you missed it, you missed a pretty good game. Not Colts-Patriots good, but still pretty entertaining. You may have also missed an important step forward for these Bears.
No, Cal did not win the game. But there’s no shame in losing to the 9th ranked team in the country on the road. What’s important is the way in which they lost. Cal, with a smaller lineup that only nominally runs 9 deep (only 7 guys played more than 9 minutes, and 4 played 30 or more) not only hung with these Ducks, playing at their typically blistering pace, but they took at 8 point lead into halftime. And it wasn’t like the Ducks were asleep and letting the Bears win. No, for 20 minutes at least, Cal looked like they could hang with any team in the country. They were hitting their shots, playing tough D, and outrebounding their taller opponent.
Of course, the second half didn’t go so well as Cal started to tire. Passing lanes opened up on defense, and shots that went in in the first half were just off the mark in the second. However, unlike the DePaul game a month ago, when Oregon went on a run, the Bears didn’t fold like a cheap lawn chair. They fought back, kept the game close, and won the rebounding battle for the third straight game.
This coming week, Cal gets UCLA and USC at home, and both are going to be tough games. I can’t imagine Cal would be favored in either contest, but I feel better about this week than I did before Saturday. Cal is a good team; not a great team, but a good one. They shoot the ball very well, both from the line and beyond the arc, and they’re starting to make up for in hustle what they lack in size. And now, they’ve shown that they can hang with a better team on the road. Do that often enough, and upset wins will follow.