Chaos reigns in the Pac-12.
A game that saw the Cal men’s basketball team fall out of sole possession of first place ended in appropriate flurry.
Washington State’s Davonte Lacy drained a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, drawing the foul for a shot at a four-point lead. The shot was off, and Cal stole the ball after an offensive rebound.
The Bears charged down the court, only to see guard Jorge Gutierrez miss a 3-pointer. WSU’s Brock Motum secured the ball but traveled to give it away. The Cougars smartly fouled to prevent the 3-point attempt, but Justin Cobbs missed his second free throw. Gutierrez ended up with the ball but couldn’t put it through the rim.
Final score: 77-75, Cougars.
You need only check one stat to see where everything went wrong for Cal at Beasley Coliseum: points off the bench.
On Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash., the Bears mustered only four points off the bench. Forward Robert Thurman — responsible for those four points — played 17 minutes, guard Brandon Smith played 10 in his second game back from a concussion and guard Emerson Murray played two.
The Cougars’ bench scored an astounding 42 points. Two WSU players came off the pine for at least 23 minutes.
The most crucial cog in the effort was senior Faisal Aden, a 6-foot-4 guard who averages 25 minutes per game. The former junior college transfer scored a game-high 24 points, shooting 9-of-12 from the field and going 6-of-7 at the free-throw line.
Including his season-high 33-point explosion against Stanford on Thursday, Aden has scored 57 points in his past two games — 11 more than in his five prior games combined.
His showing helped turn around a game that Cal (16-5, 6-2 in the Pac-12) led almost the entire first half. The Cougars (11-8, 3-4) shot 53 percent.
“Defensively we weren’t very good,” said Bears coach Mike Montgomery. “Aden obviously is confident right now, but of the nine shots he (made), seven were layups. That was disappointing. No excuse for that.”
Using a 9-0 run, the Bears jumped to an 11-point lead with more than six minutes left before the break. That margin shrank to 40-34 by halftime, and Cal shot 40 percent afterward — 13 worse than its first-half numbers.
The game saw seven lead changes and six ties after Aden tied the game with a pair of free throws with 6:51 left. Neither team led by more than four points over the last 8:55.
“They just kept at it. Not that we gave up,” forward Harper Kamp said. “They just played with a lot of confidence, and we weren’t able to shut that down.”
Gutierrez led the Bears with 19 points and six assists, rounding out his effort with five rebounds.
The Bears are still on top of the Pac-12 but are now tied with Oregon, a team they defeated on the road, 77-60, on Jan. 8. As the conference schedule nears the halfway point, Cal is still well positioned for a run at its second regular season title in three years.