With 41 seconds left on the game clock and 2 on the shot clock, Jerome Randle whipped an inbounds pass to Ryan Anderson beyond the arc on the right wing, who - while still moving past a screen set by a teammate - rose in the air to score an off-balance jump shot three to give the Bears the breathing room they needed to seal an 84-81 win.
Anderson was almost verbose in his post-game comments about the shot: "I got the ball, I was coming off a screen, I shot as normally as possible, and the ball went in."
|AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Christopher fouled by Tim Morris
The win put the Bears into the "final eight" of the Pac-10 tournament, and slotted them into a quarterfinal game against #1 seed UCLA in a 2:30 pm game Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. After the highly controversial 81-80 loss to the Bruins in the last game of the regular season last week at Pauley Pavilion, the Bears are eager for the rematch.
The Bruins will be well rested Thursday, the Bears will not. Nevertheless, as Cal Head Coach Ben Braun realistically put it, "This gives us another opportunity to play the best team in the conference."
The Huskies played without Jon Brockman, their leading scorer (17.6 ppg and 11.5 rebounds), who missed the game because of a sprained left ankle.
|AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Joel Smith fouled on drive past Hardin and Kamp
After the game, Cal's Assistant Head Coach Louis Reynaud said that the opportunity to play the Bruins again on Thursday was an important motivating factor in this game against the Huskies.
Whatever the motivations, the game started badly for the Bears. They hit just 4 of 15 shots from the field (0 for 5 from three) in the first eight minutes of the game.
Then a three-pointer by Jerome Randle seemed to stir the Bears from their hibernation and they worked into a slender lead at 18-17 with 10 minutes gone. The Huskies took the lead right back and built a 6- or 7-point lead that they held until the final two minutes when the Bears pulled within two. Mercifully the buzzer sounded to end a dull first half with the Huskies leading 40-38.
Cal had managed just 32% shooting from the floor in the half; Patrick Christopher and Ryan Anderson were a combined 6 of 19 from the field. Only free throw shooting (11 of 13) and solid rebounding (26 to 17) kept the Bears in the game. Too often the Bears settled for shots early in possessions and were playing without much intensity on defense.
Later Braun said, "We were a little frustrated in the first half. Uncharacteristically, we weren't hitting shots and we were rushing ourselves. We were playing too quickly."
"We really got fired up at halftime," Christopher said after the game. Indeed a different team emerged from the locker room.
Said Braun, "In the second half, we got defensive stops. Our communication was better, and the guys were doing a better job of helping each other through screens."
But not initially, at least, as Ryan Appleby looked like he might take over the game in the first 2:30 of the half, hitting 3 threes to push the Huskies out to a 12-point lead.
Then DeVon Hardin changed the game. With 17 minutes left, he got loose under the basket to slam home a two-pointer. Moments later Patrick Christopher hit two jumpers, then Hardin blocked a shot that resulted in an Anderson three - and a game-changing run by Cal was well underway. In a period of 6½ minutes, the Bears would outscore the Huskies 23-3 to take a 64-57 lead.
|AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Christopher dunks over Artem Wallace
Said Braun, "DeVon gave us great energy, he battled back from his injury and I thought he played with a lot of heart and emotion. He helped us get stops, and helped to get us rolling."
In the midst of that run, Christopher pulled off a neat from-behind-the-back steal, poking the ball out of the hands of a Husky player who was facing upcourt, to give himself a nice self-generated lead pass for a dramatic power-dunk and Cal's 16th straight point.
Braun said, "Obviously, that steal off the blind side was a momentum turner, he was in the 'right position' and that's our motto. He got the ball cleanly - and that was huge."
At another notable moment during that same run, with about 11 minutes left in the game, Randle made a nifty bounce pass through traffic to Anderson under the basket for 2 points and a foul - and a 64-57 lead. Randle put the pass where only Anderson could get it and still be in position for the shot despite the two defenders who were all over him.
The Bears, a team that leads the Pac-10 in free-throw shooting, and one that ranks third nationally on that front, went cold from the line, missing three consecutive foul shots (Boykin 1, Hardin 2), and sandwiched those around three consecutive missed shots from the floor (Hardin 1, Anderson 2). With the door reopened the Dawgs crawled back into the game to set up the dramatic finish.
Patrick Christopher led the scoring with 25 points; Anderson hit 22 and reeled in 16 rebounds; only Hardin was close in rebounding with 8. Jerome Randle added 14 points, 3 assists, and I turnover for the victors.
The Bears went to the line 35 times, hitting 25 of them, for a poor (for the Bears) 71% mark. The Huskies hit 15 of their 23 attempts from the line, 65%, not bad for a poor free-throw shooting team.
Remarkably, Washington, playing without big man Jon Brockman, scored 40 of their 81 points in the paint.
Though certainly a pleasure for Cal fans, the win wasn't pretty. The Bears once again endured flat periods where little worked, and those against a 9th place Pac-10 team that was missing its most productive player (24% of the Husky's offense and the best rebounder). And while a rematch against the UCLA Bruins might provide the opportunity to correct the injustices experienced in the controversial game at Pauley, the Bears may well see a different (and well rested) Bruin team on Thursday.
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