And nevermind the fact that Cal looked and felt fatigued as a result of playing their third game in as many days… Instead, focus on the positives.
Focus on forward Jamal Boykin's will and determination to take the game over.
With 11:21 to go in the second half, Washington forward Quincy Pondexter converted a fastbreak layup in addition to drawing a foul, giving Washington a comfortable 61-52 lead. With the Washington fans loud and on their feet, Jamal Boykin took a second to himself. He stood underneath the basket and looked up – focus in his eyes, passion in his face.
And then, he took over.
On his next trip down the floor, Boykin quickly converted on a jumper to bring Cal back to within seven. On the next possession, Boykin converted a layup in addition to drawing a foul, pulling Cal within closer with all the momentum. Boykin's play sparked a 12-0 run, giving California the lead. The often overlooked Boykin's play alone nearly gave California the championship, and it will certainly be useful for NCAA Tournament play.
Boykin credited Head Coach Mike Montgomery for his overall play, along with the team's improvement.
"He's made us better individual players, such as helping us pay attention to detail, prepare for games, allowing us to continue to play our game, while being in a system," said Boykin. "The discipline in that has helped improve our game.
Focus on guard Theo Robertson's spot-up shooting to keep California close in the first half.
With Randle and Christopher struggling to make a basket, and with four players putting themselves in early foul trouble, Robertson was the spark to keep Cal close. His 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range, was key to keeping Cal in the game. To be down only four points despite being out-shot by Washington 56% to 37.1% is a credit to Robertson. A confident Robertson can only make the Bears more dangerous come tournament time.
"We have a lot of guys that can play and are very talented," said Robertson.
Focus on what the tournament ultimately does for Cal.
The Bears faced tough competition in the face of fatigue, on a neutral court. The Bears showed well on national television, convincingly winning the first two games. The Bears only improved upon their potential seeding for selection Sunday.
So while the Bears could not achieve a tournament trophy to go along with their Pac-10 regular season championship, know that this weekend made the Bears better prepared for the NCAA Tournament.
After all, it's the NCAA Tournament that will mark how these Bears will be remembered.
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