Game 4: Cal 65, UC Irvine 57

<p class=txt>Has Ben Braun filed a missing persons report yet? </p> <p class=txt>With Amit Tamir and Richard Midgely still searching for their games, the Bears had to scrap and hustle their way to a hard fought 65-57 victory Wednesday night in front of 11,069 fans at Haas Pavilion. </p>

Cal, now 2-2, was sluggish from the opening tip as UC Irvine built an early 10-point lead. With nothing working well on the offensive end, Ben Braun searched for a way to increase the pressure defensively. A.J. Diggs came to the rescue and sparked Cal to a 12-0 run that got the Bears back into game.

Cal’s lineup of Diggs, Kately, McGuire and Powe seems to be achieving the best defensive results this year. But even with providing good perimeter pressure at times, the Bears’ guards were frequently caught up fighting through screens, which in turn gave the Irvine squad many solid looks at the basket. Despite the shortcomings, the Bears defense showed moments of promise of becoming a great defensive hawking team. The solid defensive effort of Gabe Hughes kept Irvine on the perimeter and led to a more up-tempo, fast break game that many Bears’ fans have been hoping for this season.

Overall, the Bears created 19 turnovers and got 14 offensive rebounds that together resulted in 32 points. Without this effort, this game ends up in the loss column. Offensively, despite the bad shooting nights from Tamir and Midgely, the Bears shot 45.1 percent from the field, a season high.

A win is a win no matter how you cut it, but the Bears’ win Wednesday night once again proved that this team needs a lot of work if Coach Braun and Co. hope to finish high in the league by season's end. In a game that followed the established MO of Cal’s early season play, the Bears’ showed flashes of brilliance while playing like a team that has not yet found its comfort zone on the court.

On the offensive end, it still seems safe to say that Midgley’s struggles are an aberration. This was the first game that the British native consistently got good looks at the basket; The Bears will have to work much harder to set the solid screens that Midgley and Tamir need to get the time they need to score.

Leon Powe was a man among boys. He scored a career-high 27 points (9-12 shooting, 9-13 FT’s) to go along with 11 rebounds (6 offensive). Powe’s effort marked his 4th double double in 4 games. Powe’s excellent play against a bigger, stronger Anteater front line proved to critics that he may already be set for the Big Time.

With Powe becoming the focus of opposing defenses, Cal’s tendency to stand around and watch when Leon gets the ball will have to be remedied. Perhaps as a result of their youthfulness, the Bears' suffered some fundamental breakdowns, illustrated late in the first half when after an individual steal and dunk by Powe, the Anteaters drove right down for a quick layup despite Leon being the only Bear player past half court.

In addition to Powe, two other freshmen were instrumental in Cal’s winning effort.

Ayinde Ubaka (5-9 shooting, 3 assists) was clutch down the stretch, scoring 8 of his 12 points when the Bears needed it most. Ayinde connected on a 3-pointer with 6:03 left, and another at 1:35, with both shots extending the Bears lead to just five points. Point guard play from Ubaka has improved each game as the Oakland High star seems to be settling nicely into his role.

Marquis Kately (5-7 shooting, 13 points) was another standout performer. Defensively, Kately shut down whomever he guarded. His physical style of play on the perimeter caused problems for Anteater guards all night. In addition, and perhaps more importantly given the offensive doldrums the team is now suffering, Kately gave Cal an offensive spark with his ability to break down his defender and create off the dribble, particularly when Irvine went into a zone mid-way through the second half.

The continued inconsistent play of Tamir has got to be a real concern for Coach Braun. This All Pac-10 performer last season does not seem to be playing with confidence right now, and this is starting to show in his defensive game. Irvine’s Zuzak and Parada repeatedly got low position inside, scoring and grabbing offensive boards. That is not all Amit's responsibility, of course - it is evident that interior defense is an area where the whole Cal front line will have to improve.

However frustrating Amit's play might be right now, Cal’s success in the Pac-10 this year will critically depend on his contributions. No matter how good the “fab four” might be, the talent and resources Tamir and Midgley bring to the court will be critically needed once Cal faces teams that are as athletic and talented as they are.

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Cal, now 2-2, was sluggish from the opening tip as UC Irvine built an early 10-point lead. With nothing working well on the offensive end, Ben Braun searched for a way to increase the pressure defensively. A.J. Diggs came to the rescue and sparked Cal to a 12-0 run that got the Bears back into game.

Cal’s lineup of Diggs, Kately, McGuire and Powe seems to be achieving the best defensive results this year. But even with providing good perimeter pressure at times, the Bears’ guards were frequently caught up fighting through screens, which in turn gave the Irvine squad many solid looks at the basket. Despite the shortcomings, the Bears defense showed moments of promise of becoming a great defensive hawking team. The solid defensive effort of Gabe Hughes kept Irvine on the perimeter and led to a more up-tempo, fast break game that many Bears’ fans have been hoping for this season.

Overall, the Bears created 19 turnovers and got 14 offensive rebounds that together resulted in 32 points. Without this effort, this game ends up in the loss column. Offensively, despite the bad shooting nights from Tamir and Midgely, the Bears shot 45.1 percent from the field, a season high.

A win is a win no matter how you cut it, but the Bears’ win Wednesday night once again proved that this team needs a lot of work if Coach Braun and Co. hope to finish high in the league by season's end. In a game that followed the established MO of Cal’s early season play, the Bears’ showed flashes of brilliance while playing like a team that has not yet found its comfort zone on the court.

On the offensive end, it still seems safe to say that Midgley’s struggles are an aberration. This was the first game that the British native consistently got good looks at the basket; The Bears will have to work much harder to set the solid screens that Midgley and Tamir need to get the time they need to score.

Leon Powe was a man among boys. He scored a career-high 27 points (9-12 shooting, 9-13 FT’s) to go along with 11 rebounds (6 offensive). Powe’s effort marked his 4th double double in 4 games. Powe’s excellent play against a bigger, stronger Anteater front line proved to critics that he may already be set for the Big Time.

With Powe becoming the focus of opposing defenses, Cal’s tendency to stand around and watch when Leon gets the ball will have to be remedied. Perhaps as a result of their youthfulness, the Bears' suffered some fundamental breakdowns, illustrated late in the first half when after an individual steal and dunk by Powe, the Anteaters drove right down for a quick layup despite Leon being the only Bear player past half court.

In addition to Powe, two other freshmen were instrumental in Cal’s winning effort.

Ayinde Ubaka (5-9 shooting, 3 assists) was clutch down the stretch, scoring 8 of his 12 points when the Bears needed it most. Ayinde connected on a 3-pointer with 6:03 left, and another at 1:35, with both shots extending the Bears lead to just five points. Point guard play from Ubaka has improved each game as the Oakland High star seems to be settling nicely into his role.

Marquis Kately (5-7 shooting, 13 points) was another standout performer. Defensively, Kately shut down whomever he guarded. His physical style of play on the perimeter caused problems for Anteater guards all night. In addition, and perhaps more importantly given the offensive doldrums the team is now suffering, Kately gave Cal an offensive spark with his ability to break down his defender and create off the dribble, particularly when Irvine went into a zone mid-way through the second half.

The continued inconsistent play of Tamir has got to be a real concern for Coach Braun. This All Pac-10 performer last season does not seem to be playing with confidence right now, and this is starting to show in his defensive game. Irvine’s Zuzak and Parada repeatedly got low position inside, scoring and grabbing offensive boards. That is not all Amit's responsibility, of course - it is evident that interior defense is an area where the whole Cal front line will have to improve.

However frustrating Amit's play might be right now, Cal’s success in the Pac-10 this year will critically depend on his contributions. No matter how good the “fab four” might be, the talent and resources Tamir and Midgley bring to the court will be critically needed once Cal faces teams that are as athletic and talented as they are.

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