Cal came into the game as the 8 seed, Oregon State 9th. OSU had won only 3 Pac-10 games all season, one against Washington, two against cellar-dweller Arizona State. Amongst the few Beaver positives were their league lead in steals - and a good turnover margin as a result. The team had hit only 42% of their shots during the year were under 60% from the foul line.
|AP Photo/Matt Sayles
Cal, also struggling, had lost 10 of their previous 12 games, but did reel in two wins over the near-hapless Beavers during the year, the first a 77-74 win in Corvallis in mid-January, the second at Haas in mid-February, an overtime 84-80 win. Given the close games, this one was expected to be a battle.
Ryan Anderson would have none of that. Recently named to the All Pac-10 freshman team, the out-of-position center put on a sparkling display of three-point shooting, at one point hitting three in a row - followed by threes from Ayinde Ubaka and Jerome Randle - as part of a remarkable 23-0 run that Cal laid on the Beavers.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Cal was behind 8-13. With five minutes left, the Bears were ahead 35-15. In the last two minutes of that interval, the rattled Beavers committed 5 straight uncharacteristic turnovers - and the Bears were dominating. This was probably the single best display of offense Cal achieved during the season.
Using an unusual lineup, Braun had the Bears playing with two point guards, Ayinde Ubaka and Jerome Randle, and two bigs, Ryan Anderson and Taylor Harrison - both pairs of players who more often trade off playing time. The change worked, especially for Anderson. Occasionally relieved of his duties in the paint, Anderson was free to roam the perimeter where his teammates found him for good looks at the basket. Anderson delivered in spades.
|AP Photo/Matt Sayles
The half ended with Cal ahead 43-25. Anderson had scored 20 of those points on 5 of 7 shooting from deep, 7of 15 overall. Remarkably, he was shooting threes at a rate much better than his attempts from 2-land. He also reeled in 6 rebounds and one free throw to achieve a box-score line that would please many players for a whole game.
Scoring by other Bears in the first half was reasonably balanced, Ubaka with 8, Randle with 5, Vierneisel with 6, and others with 2 each.
Taylor Harrison's contributions should be noted. His physical presence under the hoop was strong, and his defensive efforts may have been his best of the season. Though he pulled in just 3 rebounds in 17 minutes of play, he also stole the ball during the streak of raining threes to help keep the string alive.
Both halves started slowly. The first ten minutes of the first half saw just 26 total points scored (13-13) as Cal began its run. Then again in the second half, both teams came out slowly, scoring just 23 total points in the third quarter. Awkward defenses, turnovers, shots that wouldn't fall for both sides characterized the first and third quarters, as both teams struggled with sloppy ball.
Oregon State made a strong effort to get back into the game in that second half, closing to within 8 points with eight minutes left in the game - but Cal regained its composure and slowly pulled away to the 19 point win.
Anderson achieved a career high 27 points, and fell just one short of tying his career high rebounds with 15. Ubaka and Wilkes finished with 10 each, Jerome Randle with 8. Cal out-rebounded the Beavers 44-31, 16 of which were on the offensive end (7 by Anderson, 3 by Wilkes) as compared to the Beavers' 5 on offense. Free throws were relatively even with Cal at 12 of 16, OSU at 11 of 19. Cal shot 41% from three, but just 36% overall. The Beavers matched Cal on overall shooting at 37%, but got very little from beyond the arc - hitting just 4 of 25 for 12 points.
|AP Photo/Matt Sayles
Taylor Harrison blocking shot by W Washington
After the game, Braun noted the big first half run, but added his perspective on the Cal defense."We had a big run in the first half that was predicated by our defense."
He noted that solid contributions by Harrison, Vierneisel, and Randle off the bench had allowed the starters to get some rest - and to have good games as a result.
Braun was candid about the challenge the team will face in today's game against the Bruins."We (will be) playing against the top team in our league and one of the best teams in the country. We played UCLA tough, we had them at their place with a lead in the first half and then it slipped. We are going to have to play good basketball to beat UCLA and we are capable. They are a very solid team, they rebound well, and they got some rest. Our guys are coming off a solid game and this is a good chance to catch them, but they are a great team."
The streaks in this game were entertaining to watch, but to have any chance to beat the Bruins Cal would have to have a strong frontline, and they won't have that until next year. Still, Cal fans can admire the determined leadership Ayinde Ubaka has provided for his team with his never-say-die attitude.
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