Thursday night the Bruins beat the Stanford Cardinal in overtime for the Pac-10 championship in a game where all the Bruins' starters put in 39 or more minutes. With the Pac-10 settled, the Bruins had little to play for in this game, while the Bears - who have been so close in so many games this season only to fall short - came into this game determined to get a redeeming win.
What is it about Cal and redemption?
|AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Boykin on Defense
Clearly shrugging off any after-affects of Cal's overtime loss to the USC Trojans last Thursday, and even with DeVon Hardin on the bench with a sore hip joint, the Bears put in a spirited effort against the #2 Bruins, hitting 56% of their shots from the field, going 19 of 21 from the foul line, and staying close on rebounds, 27 to UCLA's 33.
The Bears led 37-30 at the half, then built to an 11-point lead with 5 minutes gone in the second half. They still had an 11-point lead with 10 minutes left, then saw it bleed down to a 2-point lead in the last four minutes.
Still showing gutsy play, the Bears clawed back to a 4-point lead with one minute left, then got back to those lofty heights once again with 32 seconds left, only finally to see disaster (i.e. the referees) strike at crunch time.
Cal Coach Braun normally stays within coach protocol and has reasonably restrained his criticisms of referees, but on this day, during his post-game comments, he roundly criticized a late call (and a no-call) that probably handed the game to the Bruins.
These are the events: With 17.1 seconds left in the game and the Bruins trailing by 4, freshman center Kevin Love hit a three pointer from the right wing to pull the Bruins within one.
On the inbounds pass from Eric Vierneisel to Ryan Anderson, two Bruins moved quickly to foul Anderson, wrapping their arms around him. Anderson was knocked to the floor - and the ball out of bounds. Surprisingly, the ball was awarded to the Bruins, and more surprisingly no foul was called.
Television announcer Steve Lavin (former head coach of the Bruins) even while acknowledging the poor call ("A downward hack like that across an opponent's arms is always a foul"), gloried in the bad call saying, "Ah, the Magic of Pauley has returned".
Said Braun, after watching a video replay, "Both hands were around (Anderson) and the ball was off Shipp," he said. "Ryan deserved to be at the free throw line."
Anderson didn't like it either, "They clearly tackled me … I fell to the ground looking for the foul and it didn't go our way. But that's UCLA … nationally ranked … they're going to get respect. That's just frustrating, really frustrating."
|AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Christopher on the Move
With Anderson hitting 90% of his free-throws in the Pac-10 this season, Cal with a 1-point lead and with 15 seconds left in the game, the two foul shots he did not get could have given the Bears a fighting chance for the win. The ball the Bruins did get unfortunately led to some more Pauley Magic.
After another out-of-bounds off a Cal player, the next Bruins' inbound pass with 6 seconds left went to Josh Shipp on the right baseline. Well defended by Jamal Boykin, pressed to the baseline, Shipp tossed a prayer (with 1.5 seconds left) up from behind the backboard and over its top and down into the hoop for the two points that gave the Bruins the win.
The shot was illegal - but not reviewable - according to Cal broadcast announcer Todd McKim. He said it should have been called a turnover and the Bears awarded the ball with a second left and a one-point lead.
After the game Shipp said, ""Lucky I play H-O-R-S-E. It was definitely a desperation shot. I've never seen anything like that. It's one of those movie shots, it was like a dream".
Yes, in a B-grade drive-in movie.
The referees did not cause this loss. The Bears let their 11-point lead with 10 minutes left in the second half dwindle down to a place where a single chip-shot, a missed rebound, or a bad referee call could change the game. And did.
That all said, leading the entire game against the #2 ranked Bruins is a solid accomplishment whatever the Bruins mood or intensity might have been. The Bears can take some pride from this after the disappointment wears off.
The Bears came just-that-close to defeating the Bruins for the first time in 29 regular season games at Pauley.
|AP Photo/Chris Pizzello
Harper Kamp to the Hoop
Indeed, the Bears came to play; they wanted this game. They built a solid lead early in the opening stanza and several times found ways to respond whenever the Bruins appeared to be climbing back into the game. Too often this season Cal fans have seen their team pull out to a lead only to surrender to long scoring runs by an opponent. In this game each time the Bruins would make a few points and look to get some momentum going, the Bears would step back into the game with a critical stop or some high energy points.
Defensively the Bears used a zone much of the night, and worked to keep UCLA's bigs away from the basket in areas where they are less-effective scorers. Cal's help defense was more better executed than seen in recent games, and the mix of more mobile bodies was more effective in closing off shooting opportunities for the Bruins.
The absence of DeVon Hardin may have benefited the Bears in one respect. Having a fifth mobile Bear on the floor helped with the zone defense, helped limit passing lanes, helped with retrieving loose balls, and provided another opportunistic rebounder whenever balls came down away from the basket where Hardin normally sets up shop.
Ryan Anderson had a good line except for his distance shooting that has trailed off late in the season as it did last year. Saturday he was 1 of 5 from trey-land, but still managed 21 points on 6 of 11 from the floor (5 of 6 inside the arc), 8 of 9 from the line, 8 rebounds
Jamal Boykin stood out. Particularly through the tough minutes of the second half Boykin frequently was the guy who got the rebound, drove around and through the defense for some points, and was seen actively urging his teammates for more energy, for more commitment to the game.
With this game the Bears ended their regular season 15-14 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-10. The 9th ranked Bears will play the 8th ranked Pac-10 team in the opening game of the Pac-10 Tournament next Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. Check local listings for television broadcast information.
- Jamal Boykin was second behind Anderson in scoring, he hit on 18 points; Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle contributed 13 each.
- The Bears generated 12 assists, but surrendered 12 turnovers.
- Percentage-wise the two teams were near equal on three-point shooting, but Cal hit only 5 of their 13 attempts, while UCLA hit 7 of their 19 attempts, for a 6 point advantage.
- Cal gave up 12 turnovers; the Bruins 9.
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