Cal men’s basketball set to face rising Oregon State

Basketball player dribbles ball and looks ahead of him to decide his next move.
Lorenzo Dela Cruz /File

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You thought you were watching college basketball, but turns out you’re actually watching limbo. Headed by Wyking Jones for his second season, the Cal men’s basketball team is stooping to new lows, and with Oregon State next on Cal’s schedule for Saturday, the Bears are likely to move the bar another notch lower.

While the Bears appear to be slipping — or perhaps, predictably falling — down a steep slope, the Beavers are reaching new heights. Oregon State’s 2018-19 season is arguably one of the program’s best in recent history.

The Beavers began conference play by winning three of their first five conference road matches, a feat OSU hasn’t accomplished since the 1989-90 season. Their very first Pac-12 match couldn’t have started with a bigger bang, as the Beavers took a 77-72 win on the home court of their biggest rival, Oregon.

Cal will need to watch out for forward Tres Tinkle, who is second on the Pac-12 leaderboard for points per game (20.8) and fifth in the conference for rebounds (8.1). The redshirt junior scored a jaw-dropping 31 points in the Beavers’ win at Utah, but his six turnovers against the Utes are also important to note. The Bears will need to use whatever leverage they can find to target Oregon State’s weaknesses this weekend.

Before beating Utah, Oregon State toppled Colorado, making for a clean road sweep. Junior transfer standout Kylor Kelley’s six blocks against Utah helped push the team to the win and also put him first on the Beavers’ single-season leaderboard in blocked shots.

His height and OSU’s overall defensive abilities will challenge Cal’s offense, which did show signs of life against Stanford last weekend when the Bears scored more than 80 points for just the second time in conference play.

After their home Big Game loss, Cal hit the road for Eugene, where they fell 62-73. Despite taking their 11th straight loss, the Bears went down while featuring a refreshing offense. To Cal fans’ surprise, Jones ran one of the more intriguing lineups of the season, finally providing freshman Connor Vanover with minutes that seem to align with his ability.

Vanover, who played 27 minutes, scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Jones added some spice by throwing Grant Anticevich, Jacobi Gordon and Jacob Orender into the pot for a few minutes each, though none of them could produce much of an effect.

It’ll be interesting to see how Jones runs the team’s play Saturday and what exactly he takes away from the Bears’ loss to the Ducks.

The Beavers are on the periphery of the NCAA tournament, making wins over the next few weeks all the more crucial. But Saturday’s game against the Bears shouldn’t be much of a question for the Beavers.

And for Cal fans, they know better than to expect wins. The most they can root for are victories that don’t show up explicitly on the scoreboard, but rather implicitly in the players’ character and ballhandling. And perhaps they can root for this game of limbo to finally come to an end.

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