Cal men’s basketball struggles, falling to Washington State by 23 points

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Justice delos Santos/File

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On Thursday night, the few fans supporting Cal and Washington State men’s basketball might have felt some déjà vu, as history appeared to repeat itself in front of their eyes.

Last season, when the Bears attempted to take on the Cougars in the land of red and white, they fell by 25 points. This season, Cal fell by 23, leaving Beasley Coliseum with a final result of 82-59 glaring on the scoreboard.

Washington State held Cal to a then-season-low 53 points last season. The Cougars managed to achieve the same feat this year, forcing Cal to tie its season low of 59 points.

As Thursday night’s game marked a battle between the Pac-12’s two weakest teams, many people were expecting a close game. And it did start out that way — both teams created chaos on either end of the court.

Just 2 1/2 minutes into the first half, Washington State head coach Ernie Kent put in senior forward Robert Franks, who would prove to be the guy of the game, but not just yet.

With 17:12 remaining in the first half, an offensive foul on the Bears became a missed layup for the Cougars. Cal sophomore Darius McNeill quickly ran it down to sophomore Justice Sueing, who also couldn’t find the net. While redshirt junior Paris Austin got the rebound, he missed the dunk. Speeding back down to their end of the court, the Cougars missed their shot, and the Bears missed another on the next possession.

Neither team was defending particularly well; rather, neither team could shoot.

Finding a groove, freshman standout C.J. Elleby, sophomore Marvin Cannon and Franks quickly worked together to build Washington State a sizable 10-point lead. Picking up the pace and finding better paths for the Bears, freshman Matt Bradley and Austin tied the game back up at 24-24 in just three minutes.

After 3:34 of scoreless play, Franks hit a jumper that was quickly outdone by Sueing’s first 3-pointer of the game, which put Cal in the lead for the first time. Yet the Bears couldn’t hold on to their small lead and wouldn’t manage to regain it.

The Cougars ended the first half with a 10-2 run to head into the locker room with the score at 42-33.

Early in the second half, Washington State extended its lead to 12 with Franks sinking another 3-pointer. Although the Cougars offered Bradley and junior Roman Davis three opportunities to finally make baskets, Cal wasn’t cutting its deficit fast enough.

Maneuvering his way through the Cal defense, Cannon made a second-chance dunk, and senior guard Viont’e Daniels hit a 3-pointer before driving another layup home to extend the Cougars’ lead to 20 points.

As Cal failed to answer Washington State’s 9-0 run, Cal head coach Wyking Jones called a timeout with 11:48 remaining. After having a rather limited role up until then, Cal freshman Connor Vanover sank back-to-back baskets to provide some moisture amid the Bears’ scoring drought, but the deficit stayed at 20 as the Bears couldn’t stop the Cougars.

In the second half, the Bears clearly struggled offensively, as they shot 34.8 percent from the field and only picked up two assists.

On top of that, the Bears were outdone at the line in the game — Cal shot 56.3 percent, while Washington State shot 76.5 percent.

Although the Cougars led, 82-54, with 1:25 remaining, the Bears still had a small ounce of fight. In their final push to reduce the sting, Sueing sank one of his free throws, junior David Serge hit a 3-pointer to record his first career points, and Andre Kelly made a layup to leave the court with an 82-59 loss.

Cal’s performance Thursday night allowed the Cougars to snap their six-game losing streak, while the Bears were forced to add another tally to their own. Cal will wrap up its road trip Saturday with a game against Washington.

Surina Khurana covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @surina_k.