Cal men’s basketball carries energy from losing-streak ending win to Colorado

Kevin Chan/Staff

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Cal men’s basketball hopes to keep post-win energy alive against Colorado.

While the Bears may have pulled off a tight win against Oregon State last weekend, seizing their first victory in more than a month, it’s how they play in their next few games that will determine if this is the start of a comeback or simply a fluke.

The Cal men’s basketball team (8-16, 2-9) will face Colorado (13-10, 5-6) on Wednesday for its first challenge since snapping its nine-game losing streak, a skid that lasted 35 days.

This will be the first matchup between the two teams this season; the winning record has oscillated for the past 10 games, with the Bears claiming six wins.

The Buffaloes had an interesting start to conference play, losing their first two games but beating then-No. 4 Arizona State and then-No. 14 Arizona. Colorado has had its share of losses, but the team has also had some remarkable finishes, including a 9-point win over UCLA.

After a recent three-game losing streak, the Buffaloes found their footing once more with a 67-55 win against Utah last week.

At the moment, both Cal and Colorado find themselves sitting near the end of the conference table and unable to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Colorado forward senior Tory Miller-Stewart has been sitting on the sidelines since late November with a broken foot, which was a massive blow for the Buffaloes. Startled and scrambling to find a replacement, the team looked to the bench.

The newcomers have not disappointed. Just look at Colorado’s dynamic duo on offense in freshman McKinley Wright IV and senior George King.

Wright averages 14.6 points per game along with a team-high 5.3 assists, ranking third in the Pac-12 in the latter. Where he falls short, however, is where King leads. King averages 8.3 rebounds per game, also placing third in the conference.

Other freshman, including forwards Tyler Bey and Dallas Walton, have also left an impact on the team. Standing 7 feet tall, Walton leads the team with 23 blocks, while Bey has been rounding out the offense, racking up more rebounds than his freshman counterpart Wright.

After Cal freshman Justice Sueing found himself on the bench for almost half of last game because of accumulated fouls, other members of the team were forced to step up. Freshman Darius McNeill, who seemingly disappeared as conference play began, reemerged as the leading scorer while senior Kingsley Okoroh —  a career 54 percent shooter from the line, made 12 of his 14 attempts.

After sitting out for two games recently, junior guard Don Coleman remains the leading scorer for the Bears, averaging 16.4 points per game. Senior forward Marcus Lee continues to be consistently above average, pulling down  7.6 rebounds per game, but he’s been hit or miss around the basket. Since the beginning of conference play, Lee has put up at least 20 points just twice — once against Arizona State and once against USC.

With any luck, the huge boost in confidence that Cal gained from its last win will be its driving force against Colorado. Entering its final four weeks of conference play, all eyes will be on the Bears to see if they can turn this atrocious season into simply below average.

Sophie Durham covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].