A night after the Cal men’s basketball team looked so good against No. 23 Syracuse, the Bears showed that beating top-ranked teams was not necessarily a given, as they were pretty easily handed a defeat Friday night at Madison Square Garden by No. 10 Texas, 71-55.
The game was never a close affair: The Bears (3-1) handed Texas (4-0) the easy “W.” The Longhorns’ win gave them the championship trophy in the 2K Classic.
The Texas team defense shut the Bears down, holding them to 31.3 percent field-goal shooting, and Cal was held to 25 percent shooting in the first half. The physical, tough Texas defense was able to play one on one on the post and limited Cal’s ball movement.
The Longhorns are a long and athletic team. The starting front line of junior forward Connor Lammert, junior center Cameron Ridley and senior forward Jonathan Holmes is 6-foot-9, 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-8, respectively, and the Bears looked like they struggled against Texas’ size. The Longhorns had nine blocks.
The Bears couldn’t force the tempo and, as a result, just weren’t able to find the net. Cal wasn’t able to find the same kind of flow it had possessed in the game against Syracuse or in games against Alcorn State and Kennesaw State, where the Bears cruised to easy victories.
A lackluster performance from the Bears’ shooters was just the icing on the game for Texas. The Bears’ first 2-pointer came with 7:31 left in the half; Cal went zero of 10 from the 2 for the first 12:29 of the game. In the second half, Cal went more than four minutes without a field goal.
While the Cal starting lineup features some very talented ball handlers — sophomore guard Jabari Bird, sophomore guard Jordan Mathews and junior guard Tyrone Wallace — the Bears needed better shooting from these perimeter players. Bird, who has the athleticism to look like an offensive machine, failed to get really hot against Texas and looked quiet for much of the game. He had five points and shot two of eight on field goals. Mathews, who had 10 points in the game, struggled, at times looking impatient, shooting three of 12 on field goals. In the second half, Wallace started to try to take control for the Bears, but by then, it was too late, and he wasn’t able to do much against the strong Texas defense.
Senior forward David Kravish made a statement for Cal, both on offense and defense. Kravish tied for his career-high point total with 19 — on 8-of-18 field-goal shooting — and played better defense than showed by the five rebounds, three steals and one block on the stat sheet. Kravish was named to the 2K Classic All-Tournament Team.
Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin’s defense still looked about as strong as it has in the three previous games this season, only allowing the Longhorns to shoot a 37.3 percent field-goal percentage. Texas’ Holmes led the Longhorns with 21 points and rounded out his double-double with 13 rebounds. The Longhorns played without their star sophomore guard, Isaiah Taylor, arguably the team’s best player, who broke his left wrist in Texas’ win over Iowa.
But perhaps the biggest problem for Cal was the early foul trouble it ran into going up against those big Texas players. Cal had 28 fouls to Texas’ 18. The Bears were already over the team foul limit with 12:23 left in the game. And redshirt junior forward Christian Behrens fouled out with more than eight minutes left to play.