Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA TODAY Sports

Cal forward Ivan Rabb breaks down his game against Oregon State, and looks ahead to a date with Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament

LAS VEGAS -- Ivan Rabb opens up on his shooting night inside the locker room, and looks ahead to Cal's date with Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament Quarterfinals.

LAS VEGAS -- While the rest of the California basketball team got out of the showers, or unboxed their Pac-12 Tournament gift -- AppleTV -- Cal's Director of Basketball Operations, Marco Harris, is exchanging some post-game thoughts with Bears sophomore forward Ivan Rabb.

The rest of the team is in varying states of undress, but Rabb still has his game shorts on. The low-key, soft-spoken Rabb is animated, pantomiming shots he took during Cal's 67-62 first-round win over No. 12-seed Oregon State. His eyes, like flickering candles, dart to and fro, alight with the game film running before his mind's eye. 

"Everybody tells me I need to be more aggressive, and I was," he said. "I was shooting, shots I normally take, but just a lot of them."

Harris encourages Rabb, who's still buzzing so much that he's almost vibrating. He knows he's close. He knows he's on the right track. He just has to keep the pedal floored. Before the season, Rabb was projected to go as high as the No. 14 pick overall in the NBA Draft, but who has since fallen to No. 21, out of the NBA Draft Lottery, according to DraftExpress. According to, Rabb is headed to the Chicago Bulls at No. 17. He's still among the top picks, according to NESN, listed as No. 12 to the Charlotte Hornets. The one consistent knock on him: He's not aggressive enough.

Rabb had six shots in the first six minutes, and finished the first half with seven looks at the basket. Only nine other times in 30 games has Rabb taken seven or more shots before intermission. The last time he did? Against the Beavers, on Feb. 24, at Haas Pavilion.

Four times in the last 10 games, Rabb has shot the ball seven or more times in the first half, but this time was different. He went 1-for-7 (his lowest first-half shooting percentage in the last 10 games), but it was the way he went 1-for-7. There was something stirring with Rabb. There was a flicker of flame. 

Head coach Cuonzo Martin said before the season started that Rabb needed to think 'score,' every time he touched the ball.  He said on Wednesday that it felt like his team had been carrying around a 15-pound weight, as of late, losing five of its last six games. In the six games leading up to Cal's first-round win, Rabb has averaged 10.8 points per game, 27 of his 65 total points have come in the second half, with the only double-figure half coming against Stanford. Rabb has been bullied early, and disappeared. 

"I've been worrying about the way we've been scoring the ball," Rabb said in the locker room, following the Bears' win over the Beavers. "Our offense has been slowing down."

During that six-game stretch, the Bears shot just 38.5% from the field. Without Rabb, especially in the second half, Cal's offense has been flat. It looked very much like that on Wednesday, as Oregon State shot out to a 10-2 lead.

"I think we were rushing our shots, even me," Rabb said. "I've got a lot of easy ones that I was rushing, and I missed. I'm sure everybody else had similar shots."

Rabb hit his first shot, but missed his next six, despite a frenetic pace in the low post by the 6-foot-11 Oakland native. Rabb sat in his locker, and mused to Harris: "I need to get to the line more."

He said that after a game in which he went 4-of-7 from the charity stripe -- more trips than any of his teammates.

"I thought he settled," Martin said. "I thought he's 4-for-11, but I thought he still passed up some opportunities in the second half. I thought he was two feet from the rim, and he passed it out to Charlie [Moore] for a three.

"But that's the type of guy he is. But he has to shoot those balls. I think the thing that probably slowed him up, he didn't see the double in the first half, so now he's just making one-on-one moves, getting back, used to playing the one-on-one against a guy. He just missed some shots that he normally makes. But I think settling in and being more assertive in the second half and having a presence was the difference."

Rabb scored 10 points in the second half -- the first second half in which he's hit double digits since Feb. 17, against the Cardinal. With 16:12 to go, Beavers big man Drew Eubanks pulled up lame, coming down the court, with what was later determined to be a knee injury. He did not return. From the moment Eubanks went out, to the end of the game, Rabb went 1-for-1 from the field, with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and a 4-for-6 stretch at the free throw line. But, perhaps most notably, Rabb went 2-of-3 in the four minutes before Eubanks went out, with four rebounds. 

"I don't think [Eubanks leaving] had much to do with it," Rabb said. "I was finally settling down, and I understand that I have to be aggressive, but also be calm, when I'm going to the basket and shooting shots."

As Rabb got used to the defense, he displayed that calm, yet determined bearing. 

"I wasn't rushing," Rabb said. "I was in my groove. It's something that I've worked on all year. Shots finally started going in. They finally dropped in the second half."

Rabb and the Bears will face off with No. 4-seed Utah on Thursday at 2:30 p.m., with the Utes likely without the services of junior forward David Collette, who suffered what is believed to be his third concussion in Utah's regular-season finale against Stanford.

Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune reported on Wednesday afternoon that Collette will be a "game-time decision," along with Devon Daniels (serving an indefinite suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team"). Collette did practice this week. If the 6-foot-10, 220-pound Collette isn't in the lineup on Thursday, and Rabb is feeling his oats again, the conference quarterfinal will have a much different feel than a 74-44 Utes win over the Bears a week ago in Salt Lake City.

In that game, Rabb was largely a non-factor, scoring 8 points and going 0-for-3 shooting with a quiet 8 rebounds. Collette scored 12 points, pulled down three rebounds and went 4-of-5 shooting in just 20 minutes of play. In the 77-75 double-overtime win on Feb. 2, Collette went 4-of-12 from the field for 14 points, with four rebounds and two assists, with two blocks and a steal in 30 minutes. While the numbers aren't incredibly gaudy, Collette helps open things up for Kyle Kuzma, who scored 23 points and pulled down 14 boards -- including four offensive rebounds -- in that nail-biter. 

"I think there were three main things," Rabb said, of what went wrong in last week's contest, so different from the double-overtime thriller at Haas earlier this season. "First of all, we turned the ball over. We got live-ball turnovers, so they picked the ball up and were able to get dunks. That was tough. Playing at their home court, you can't do that. Third: They got offensive rebounds, and every time they got offensive rebounds, they got second-chance points. I think they had four threes off second-chance shots, and a two-point, attempted. All of that stuff counts, especially on the road, where everything doesn't always go your way."

Utah scored 12 second-chance points, 13 points off of turnovers and racked up seven offensive rebounds on 30 chances. The Utes also out-scored Cal 16-0 in fast-break points, gassing the Bears early. 

"We need to limit those second-chance points," said Rabb.

Utah is notoriously well-represented, traditionally, in the fan turnout at the Pac-12 Tournament, so things won't get much easier for the Bears in Las Vegas, but Cal is in a different place, psychologically, after getting off the schnide against the Beavers.

"Getting the win, it feels good, and you can get your head up," Rabb said. "It's good to see Stephen [Domingo] playing well, finally getting his rhythm, and hopefully, that carries over to tomorrow. He puts in a ton of work. Besides that, we know he can defend. If he can make shots when he's on the floor, it's great to see him make shots because he's putting pressure on the defense. If that carries over to tomorrow, you never know."

Domingo went 3-of-6 from the field for 10 points, and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc in 18 minutes, arguably his best performance all season. If Rabb carries forward that aggressiveness, and if Domingo -- a 6-foot-7 guard/forward -- can be another offensive option, and if Collette can't get on the floor, Thursday's quarterfinal could be worthy of another animated locker room discussion.

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