In the end, it was three-point and foul line shooting that did in the Cougars. The teams nearly matched each other in rebounds at both ends of the court; their assists were similar (Cal 13, WSU 15), their turnovers identical (9 each). But Cal hit 45% of their 20 tries from three-point territory while the Cougars delivered only 5 of their 20 attempts.
From the line, Cal was perfect, hitting 6 of their 6 attempts. WSU got more opportunities at the line, but hit just 11 of their 17 shots. The missed Cougar attempts added up to the Cal win.
|AP Photo/Dean Hare
Coach Ben Braun said, "We've been so close in so many games, and this was another game where we had the lead … and our guys drew a line in the sand and said 'we've got to close.' Our guys believed in each other."
The game was close throughout, with the Cougs managing an 8-point lead twice in a first half that they led for sixteen of the twenty minutes - in spite of the 5 times the score was tied. The half ended with the teams even at 35 apiece.
Cal led most of the second half, once pushing to an 8 point lead, but allowed the Cougars a 1-point lead three times - until the Bears pulled ahead by one with 42 seconds left on the clock on a Ryan Anderson layup. Jamal Boykin sealed the deal with a 3-point-shot block. 4 foul shots by the Bears rolled the scoreboard up to the final 5-point margin.
As guard Daven Harmeling came up the court with 27 seconds left and Cal leading by one, Boykin whispered to him, "This play is coming to you." Moments later Boykin saw the ball indeed going back to Harmeling and, "I ran there as fast as I could, and it ended up being a huge play for us."
In the absence of Hardin, Boykin (5 of 15, no threes) and Eric Vierneisel (3 of 7, 3 threes) stepped up with 31 and 33 minutes respectively. Boykin's 12 points and Vierneisel's 9 supplemented the primary scoring work put in by Patrick Christopher (16) and Ryan Anderson (27). The latter two led all scorers this night; Kyle Weaver managed 15 points to lead the home team.
Anderson put down a remarkable 71% (5-7) from beyond the arc - he is averaging 54.1% from deep in the Pac-10 season.
About Anderson, Cougar coach Tony Bennett said, " ... Ryan Anderson is one of the most underrated players in the conference. He's tremendous. He can score in a variety of ways and he showed that tonight."
This was Jamal Boykin's first start. His 31 minutes reflected both Hardin's absence and Braun's stated intent to get more minutes for this high-energy player. Over his last three games Boykin is averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds - exactly his results vs. the Cougars.
|AP Photo/Dean Hare
Jerome Randle played 37 minutes, supplied 3 assists (to match Jamal Boykin), but notably committed zero turnovers. Nikola Knesevic and Harper Kamp did not score in their combined 30 minutes. That said, Ted Lee's article (see Plus/Minus: MBB vs. WSU) demonstrates that Cal was most productive on offense when Knesevic was on the floor.
The win puts the Bears at 12-7 on the season, just 3 of 5 in the Pac-10, but that mark pulled them up from 9th to 7th in the conference based on a very slightly better season record than 8th place Oregon (12-8) and 9th place Washington (12-9); the three teams are all 3-5 in conference play.
The win over No. 9 Washington State was the Bears' first road game victory over a Top-10 team in a road game since 1995.
After the Cal-Stanford game, Cardinal coach Trent Johnson said (about Cal), "If that's the ninth-place team in this league, then there are going to be nine teams going to the NCAA tournament." Following the Cal-WSU game, Coach Bennett said, "It's a good league and it's a battle. We have limitations, we have some strengths, but it's not easy and we have to keep scrapping and fighting and learn from it. You're looking at the best league in the country."
The Bears face the Washington Huskies next in a televised game on Saturday in Seattle, tip-off at 3 p.m. On Thursday the Cardinal dominated the Dawgs 65-51 in the Huskies worst home loss in five years. Prior to the Stanford game, the Huskies had defeated Oregon (78-70), Oregon State (83-74) and Arizona State (72-61) to climb out of the Pac-10 cellar, before losing badly to Arizona (69-84).
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