Cal seemed to take control at regular intervals throughout the game, but each time UCLA responded with some inspired defense and strong outside shooting to keep the game close. After UCLA took a brief one point lead late in the second half, Cal went on a 9-0 run to take what appeared to be a commanding 8 point lead. Yet, with 3 minutes left, UCLA's least likely hero, backup PG Ryan Walcott stepped up and led a Bruin rally to tie the game at 59. A Cal timeout with 1:30 left led to a reverse layup by Amit Tamir and Cal closed the game out with some clutch defense and free throw shooting.
The first half of the game was as scripted. Although Solomon Hughes and Jamal Sampson struggled to get going offensively, Cal was still able to dominate the paint on both ends. UCLA was able to stay in the game solely as a result of their pinpoint shooting from behind the 3 point line. Both UCLA point guards struggled in the first half, committing numerous unforced turnovers including two palming the basketball calls on Ced Bozeman. Offensively, Cal solved UCLA's zone defense using a lethal combination of Amit Tamir passes and Ryan Forehan Kelly threes. With 3 minutes left in the half, Cal had a nine point game and looked to be on cruise control. At that point, Lavin switched up defenses and went to a man to man. This proved to a shrewd move as Cal was unable to score the rest of the half and UCLA got back to within four points as the half ended.
What made this game interesting is that Cal did two things tonight which they rarely ever do. The Bears could not take care of the ball, especially in the 2nd half, turning the ball over 13 times, with at least half of those being unforced. Equally uncharacteristically, Cal shot the ball well from 3 point range as Joe Shipp and Ryan Forehan Kelly combined to make 8 of 13 from deep. Forehan-Kelly finished with six 3's en route to a game high 20 points. Shipp added 18 points and 6 rebounds and Brian Wethers chipped in with 11. Cal actually went into half time with a rebounding advantage, a problem UCLA solved at halftime as their domination of the glass in the 2nd half fueled their late run to tie the Bears.
The question at this point is what will tomorrow bring. A chance at redemption for Ben Braun and the Cal Bears against Arizona. Whether Cal can solve Arizona's spread offense and active zone defense has yet to be seen. Arizona brings the dimension of dribble penetration to their offense, a weapon which UCLA does not have. For Cal to win, they will have to do two things: Prevent Arizona from beating Cal defenders off the dribble and take a page from the Wildcats book and look to put the ball on the floor and go to the hoop. Arizona's defensive strategy against Cal this year has been simple. Pack in the zone to double team Cal's post players and then run out at the Bears three point shooters. This has proved effective as outside of Brian Wethers, Cal has not proven that it is capable or willing to slash to the basket against the Cats. Oh, it also might help if Arizona doesn't make every shot it throws up.