In front of a sellout crowd of 13,276 energetic fans at the St. Jones Arena in Columbus, Ohio, #1 seed Ohio State dominated the #4 seeded Bears 73-56 to move on to the 3rd round of the NIT.
During the run Anderson and Randle both missed threes, Hardin missed a jumper, Anderson missed a dunk, and a jumper by Boykin misfired. Need we go on? Only two 2-pointers by Anderson diluted the onslaught.
Meanwhile, Kosta Koufos (a stellar 7-0 265 lb ohio State freshman who scored 14 ppg and hauled in 7 rpg during the season) hit a dunk and a jumper, and Jamar Butler scored nine points on three 3s sandwiched around another Kosta Koufos 2-pointer. Oh yes, and for good measure, Othello Hunter tossed in another dunk.
The game was quite suddenly beyond recall.
The Bears won't take home good memories from this one, and the lessons learned will not be the kind that say a little bit here & there and we have a chance.
What they will take home is that they were not tough enough; simply not physical enough in the ways that both win games and don't draw fouls in the country outside of the Pac-10.
Rebounding was reasonably close; Cal got 31, 11 of them on the offensive boards, OSU got 38, 14 of those on offense. Cal committed 16 turnovers to add to Oski's anguish, but Ohio State gave up 13 as well.
|AP Photo/Terry Gilliam
Nikola Knesevic defends James Butler drive
And then there was the shooting. Ryan Anderson scored just 11 points on 4 of 11 from the field (a poor 36%) and 1 of 5 from deep (even worse, for him). The Three just wasn't there on this Monday, even when he had several good open looks. Cal fans might wonder about that, but so will NBA scouts.
After the game, Anderson commented that, "It was an off night for me. I can't say it was all me. They played great defense the entire game. I also missed some shots that I normally make."
Randle was Cal's high scorer with 18 points (57% from the field, 2 of 5 from beyond the arc), but Patrick Christopher disappeared with just 6 and DeVon Hardin bearly contributed with 4 (and just 5 rebounds and no shots blocked); only Jamal Boykin added some bucket-sense for 7, but most of those came after the game had been decided.
Oddly, on the whole, Cal's offense (ranked 7th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency by kenpom.com) frequently found the open shot, more so in the early going when the game was competitive, but throughout the game as well.
|AP Photo/Terry Gilliam
Jerome Randle drives for two
Cross-court passes, kick-outs from the paint, and even step-backs after threatened drives - all resulted in open looks against the tenacious Buckeye matchup zone. But on this day, in this arena, the shots didn't fall. However skilled the Buckeye defense was, this game looked more like Bears' nerves on offense rather than just playing against a superior D.
Add that to the Bears' turnovers and this was a lost cause.
Jerome Randle got his 18 points, but committed 5 turnovers. When bringing the ball upcourt, he several times allowed himself to be trapped near the mid-court line with no outlet help.
And then there were the Bears' inlet passes. Many attempts to get the ball into the paint were either deflected or intercepted. Some of that can be attributed to Ohio State's excellent defense that has played havoc all year with Big-10 offenses, but it was also Cal's soft or ill timed passes that gave the Buckeye defense many opportunities.
And then there was the Bears' inconsistent ball security under the basket; several rebounds were actually caught but then lost to the Buckeye's ball-hawking defense. Balls got away from Bear rebounders to create either new put-backs by the Buckeyes or outlet passes to trigger their up-court offense.
This was not a close game. Once the Buckeyes grabbed control of the game at 6:40 in the first half, the Bears never made a real move to close the gap.
At the half, OSU led by 35 to 23, and the Bears went into the locker room hoping to come out with a new focus or energy. But then the Buckeyes hit the first 7 points of the second half and the game was effectively over; the Bears never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way.
The Buckeyes, who finished fifth in the Big Ten, advance now to host a quarterfinal game on Wednesday night against the winner of the Dayton-Illinois State game.
And the Bears go home, ending a 17-16 season, their 99th. Head Coach Ben Braun logged his 10th NIT game with Cal, ending with an 8-2 record in that arena.
Braun did his best to find positives from the defeat: "I'm really proud of this team. The team has been resilient and bounced back from tough games. We've asked them to get better offensively and they finished first in the conference in scoring. This team has come a long way."
|AP Photo/Terry Gilliam
Jerome Randle fouled by David Lighty
Cal fans, who for a variety of reasons stayed away in droves from the first round NIT game at Haas Pavilion, might take notice of the energy in Columbus, Ohio. Said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, "I think it could only be described as electric. The fans here at Ohio State support their team no matter where we play, and tonight was no exception. When the Schott is rocking, it's one of the loudest arenas in the country, but it's always unique when you play in a place with this much history."
The prospects for the Bears to improve next season are good; 77% of the team's scoring in the 2007-08 season came from sophomores, and only two seniors, DeVon Hardin and Eric Vierneisel, graduate.
As Anderson said after the game, "We're young. With age comes more responsibility. We have to learn from this season."
Two outstanding freshmen will join the team next year, off-guard D.J. Seeley and point-guard Garrett Sim, both of whom had excellent seasons this year as high school seniors. Every-skill 6'-6 forward Theo Robertson, following hip surgery in April 2007, will also be back after a lengthy rehab. The added talent plus the maturation of the sophomores will strengthen the team.
The single biggest "team" question for the off-season will be whether Ryan Anderson decides to return for another year or opt for the NBA; Cal fans have been clear on what they think his decision should be.
Thoughts have also surfaced about a possible coaching change for Cal men's basketball, if only because the team has not in recent years met Athletic Director Sandy Barbour's oft proclaimed standard for all Cal athletics: being competitive for the conference championship year in and year out.
With both the added and maturing young talent on the team - and the costs associated with a coaching change to consider - Barbour will now (once again) earn her salary.
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