That’s all I’m willing to call last night’s win over No. 9 Washington State, Cal’s first road win over a top 10 foe in nearly 13 years (and the first of Braun’s tenure). It’s progress, but it’s not validation.
Yesterday, I said a number of things in my pregame post:
1. You know, I expect this game to be close.
And it was: the biggest lead of the night by either team was 8, and for most of the contest, it was much closer than that. This was a neck-and-neck, down-to-the-wire, cliché-inspiring basketball game.
2. If this game’s score is in the 50s, the Bears have no chance; if it gets up into the 70s, perhaps they pull it out. I doubt it.
Well, 69-64 is almost in the 70s…I’d say the Bears managed to dictate the tempo fairly well. 9 for 20 from behind the arc will certainly help with that. Was I wrong to doubt the Bears? In hindsight, yes, but can you blame me? Did you believe?
3. I bring these games up…to point out how close the Bears are to beating good teams… This is not a team with no hope (*cough* Oregon State *cough*), and if the Bears can figure a few things out, they might surprise a lot of us.
They sure surprised me. The Bears got into another close one, but they managed not to fade towards the end. I think part of it has to do with not getting themselves into a deep first-half hole, from which they had to expend all their energy just to crawl back towards even. And part of it probably can be attributed to Jamal Boykin, whose energy down the stretch had to invigorate the rest of the team. Taking charges, forcing turnovers, blocking shots, and finally sinking the game-clinching free throws, Boykin did a bit of everything in making the absolute most of his first career start. More and more, I love me some Jamal Boykin.
Boykin has so much energy, he comes out all blurry when you take photos of him.
4. Road splits in the Pac-10 are valuable commodities.
Yes, this is true, and Cal is guaranteed at least a split for this weekend. But if the Bears are going to actually make something of this season, weekend splits just aren’t enough. They need a sweep, something they’ve thus far failed to manage this year, and they need it badly. Whatever momentum the Bears have built up with this win will be wasted if they don’t win in Seattle on Saturday.
UW is by no means a gimmie, but it is a game that is very much within the Bear’s grasp. The Huskies are also 3-5 in the conference, having lost to WSU and USC, but having beaten Oregon and ASU. They also beat Utah by 4. Record wise, they look to be about as good as the Bears; they too had no answer for Stanford’s twin towers, losing by 14 to the Cardinal last night. In a league this tough, games like this are must-haves.
Bonus! This one’s on TV (FSN+, whatever that is)! 3pm tomorrow - tune in to find out if the Bears can give their fans another reason to hope for this year. (Oh, what sweet agony being a Cal fan is!)