From the get-go against Washington State on Saturday afternoon, Bird seemed off. He missed his first two three-point attempts badly. Bird came into the game a career 36.7% shooter from beyond the arc, and shot 40.9% as a junior from three, but he could not, for the life of him, find that touch.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1601727-jabari-bird-ready-... With 49.7 seconds left against one of the Pac-12's worst teams, Bird had just one point. In his career, Bird had made hit 368 field goals, 147 three-pointers and taken 843 shots. He was a mere two points away from 1,000, and the Bears trailed by one. Bird stepped up on the left wing and swished a three off the catch -- his first field goal of the night -- and gave Cal the lead it needed, 56-52, as the Bears held on for a 58-54 win over the visiting Cougars.
"I knew it was going in before I shot it," Bird told BearTerritory, just before meeting up with his parents, who attend every home game.
Bird's father, Carl Bird, was a Cal star from 1972-76.
"I've hit plenty of big shots in my career, and they overloaded one side, I was open on the weak side, and just spotted up and knocked it down," Bird said. "I haven't even seen pops yet. I've been here signing autographs."
"He's a big time player, so at the end, we expect him to step up," Rabb said.
Not as easy as he made it sound, to be sure, but, as he also said on Thursday: At the end of the day, a W is a W.
"I don't know if he was pressing, but shots just need to fall," said head coach Cuonzo Martin.
Bird went 0-for-2 in the first half, and wasn't the only Cal player to struggle. That first half that saw sophomore forward Ivan Rabb go just 1-for-5 (0-for-2 over the first 16:28), and anyone not named Charlie Moore or Grant Mullins go a combined 6-for-18 from the field.
"I think a lot of it, offensively, we had a lot of turnovers -- six before the under-12 time out, which is unacceptable," said Sam Singer. "We've got to shoot the right shots, not quick shots."
Cal dropped their turnovers from six in the first half to just one in the second.
"We just couldn't get shots to fall," said Martin. "We did just enough to win."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1745899-metin-we-did-just-...Rabb finished with his ninth double-double of the season, and sixth in his last seven games, scoring 14 on 4-of-11 shooting, and pulling down 12 rebounds, but early on, it was Mullins who buoyed the Bears, leading them with eight points on 2-of-4 shooting, both makes from beyond the three-point arc.
Rabb, Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks had a tough time down low against Josh Hawkinson and Conor Clifford, particularly before the break, as Rabb managed just two shots over the first 16:28, and Okoroh managed just two shots the entire half. Despite a 4-for-12 mark from beyond the arc, the Bears still somehow managed to be down by just one at the break, albeit to the Pac-12's fourth-worst team, but needed a 7-0 end-of-half run to get there.
"Hawkinson is a load down low and can score from all three levels, a real competitor," Rabb said. "We took it personal tonight."
Hawkinson finished with seven points, after coming in averaging 15.8 points per game.
With a pass in from bird to Okoroh with 18:48 left in the second half, those fortunes began to change, as Okrooh slammed home an alley-oop pass from Jabari Bird to put the Bears up, 30-29 -- the first time they'd been ahead since 10:04 in the first half. Okoroh came up with the block on Clifford on the very next possession.
But, just as they ddi in the first half, the Cougars used a barrage of threes to get back ahead. Before the break, Washington State went on an 8-0 run fueled by two threes from Malachi Flynn to take a lead that they wouldn't relinquish midway through the first half. In the second, it was a corner three from Viont'e Daniels that gave Washington State a 36-31 advantage.
"What happens is, when they go small with four guys, we have two traditional bigs, so they spread us out, and they made a couple of shots over our bigs," Martin said. "They had two threes by our bench in the first half. One we turned the ball over in transition, and the other, we had a quick shot and they scored. That was a poor job of getting back defensively."
"Early on, we were giving them open looks, some were tough," Singer said. "They were hitting some tough shots."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1745908-bttv-ivan-rabb-sam... Cal shrunk the lead to one on two Rabb buckets -- including a step-back jumper on the left wing -- before Flynn again pushed Cal back with a corner triple. Struggling Stephen Domingo, who was 2-for-12 in his last six games then hit a three of his own to keep Cal within sniffing distance, down 41-40 with 12:34 to go in the second half.
"It helped us," Martin said. "Even though he's struggled shooting, if he's on the floor, we expect him to make that shot."
But, from there, Cal's defense on Hawkinson and Clifford began to erode, and the defense of Hawkinson and Clifford on Rooks, Okoroh and Rabb intensified, as Rabb saw regular, physical double teams, having to power through one with 8:10 to go to get a kiss off the glass to keep Cal within one, down 45-44.
In short, the Cougars challenged the Bears' bigs, and made them work for every point down low, clogging the lanes because they were able to send the double and not have to concern themselves with the perimeter, where Cal started the second half 1-for-5.
After getting to within three points of 1,000 for his career on Thursday, senior wing Jabari Bird went scoreless until 7:23 in the second, when he hit one of two at the free throw line. But, with 7:03 left, Bird came up with a volleyball-spike block on a shot by Clifford, one of the Bears' nine blocks on the night.
With 5:38 to go, Moore, who went 2-of-6 in the first half -- drove right and spun back left inside for a lay-in, tying the game at 47-47. Two free throw makes by Rabb put the Bears ahead, 49-47.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1745911-analysis-give-it-r...As Cal crept ahead, Washington State missed five shots in a row, and seven of eight from 8:31 to 3:46. It was Flynn, though, once again, who pushed back, with a three to tie things up against a 2-3 zone look from the Bears at 2:55. Washington State went 8-of-19 from beyond the arc, necessitating the late shift to the zone.
"I don't know if we win tonight without the zone," said Martin, who's been a decidedly man-oriented coach throughout his career.
After a lengthy loose ball review by the officials gave the ball to Washington State with 18.2 seconds left, Bird fouled with 12.4 seconds to go, and on the ensuing play, Flynn -- who had given so much fuel to the Cougars over the preceding 39 minutes, bowled Singer over on a baseline drive for a charge, giving Cal the ball with 2.7 seconds left.
"When a guy gets beat, making sure we get out of the restricted zone—we practice that every week in practice," Singer said. "I wanted to make sure I got out of the zone and took it."
"That was big," Martin said. "That's something we talked about quite a bit."
A foul on the in-bound pass from Singer to Moore resulted in a Daniels foul, sending Moore to the line, where the freshman from Chicago hit both tries to put the Bears up, 58-54.
"He loves big moments," Singer said. "He's not afraid of the big stage. Everybody's comfortable with him at the line, hitting big shots."