Cal men’s basketball awakes from hibernation in loss to Colorado

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Lorenzo Dela Cruz/File

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For the first time in weeks, the Bears gave Berkeley an exciting basketball game. After a series of blowouts in the past few games, the Bears managed to keep this one close before ultimately succumbing to the Buffaloes stampede.

But still, progress.

The final score line read 68-59 in favor of the Buffs, and the loss extended Cal’s losing streak to eight games and put the Bears’ record at 5-14, with a dismal 0-7 record in Pac-12 play. Meanwhile, Colorado improved to 11-7 overall and 2-4 in the conference and secured its first victory in Berkeley since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.

The Bears managed to hang around for sporadic periods of the first half but were generally outmatched and outmaneuvered in the first half, as they found themselves down, 34-23.

Colorado shot 48 percent from the field in the first half with Shane Gatling leading the Buffs with 11 points at the half, while Lucas Siewert and Tyler Bey each poured in 8 points.

Justice Sueing was 4-6 from the field in the first half to lead Cal with 10 points. Paris Austin also shot 4-6 on field-goal attempts, but the rest of the Bears starters combined for only 2 points. Meanwhile, the Bears as a whole shot 39 percent from the field and missed all five attempts from the perimeter. The rest of Cal’s offensive production came from the free-throw line, where the team hit only five of nine opportunities (55 percent).

Cal head coach Wyking Jones stressed that the Bears were playing into Colorado’s hands as they settled.

“Instead of forcing the issue … we’re shooting a lot of floaters, a lot of fadeaways. Those aren’t the shots that we want.”

The second half was a different story entirely, as a rather boring first half was replaced by a back-and-forth affair with both sides exchanging haymakers in the fashion of a prize fight as Cal dug their way out of an 18-point hole, even gaining the lead for a moment in the second half.

Darius McNeill woke out of a slumber for a trio of 3-pointers early in the second half as Cal began to close in on the Buffs’ first-half cushion. Matt Bradley erupted for two of his own as the Bears improved to 31 percent from the perimeter.

Colorado didn’t help its own chances, as the team kept coughing up the ball to the Bears to the tune of 10 turnovers, which allowed the Bears to crawl back into a game that the Buffs had been thoroughly in control of in the first half.

Ultimately, the Cal players exhausted themselves in their effort to come back and were unable to finish the job.

“We just ran out of gas after fighting back. Down 18, that’s a lot of points,” Jones said.

McKinley Wright IV, in his first game back since a shoulder injury, was quiet for the first half but finished well as he managed 8 second-half points, including a 3-point dagger with 29 seconds left to kill the Bears’ hope of a successful comeback bid.

“I was very happy with the fight and the toughness that our guys showed,” Jones said.“I’ve been waiting to see for a long time, so that was the bright spot for me.”

Siewert finished as Colorado’s leading scorer with 18 points, while Bey added 17. Austin and Sueing each finished with 13 points to lead the Bears.

Jones was disappointed with the loss but saw progress with the Bears’ spirit. “It comes down to giving that effort for 40 minutes,” Jones said. “We have our spurts that you’ve all seen, but it comes down to putting it all together for two halves.”

Cal will have its first chance to do so this Saturday against Utah.

 

Postgame notes:

— Third consecutive game Bears failed to score 60 points

— Jacobi Gordon sat out with Achilles injury

— Cal finished with only four turnovers against 10 assists — another bright spot in an otherwise tough loss

 

Shailin Singh is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].