The only reason there was a winner in this game was because the rules dictate that there must be one. It was an ugly, hideous game for a season that could aptly be described with identical adjectives.
The final scoreline read 75-67 in favor of UCLA (13-12, 6-6), who broke its three-game losing streak, while Cal’s (5-19, 0-12) own losing streak was lengthened to a new program record of 13 games.
The first half only slightly resembled an organized basketball game, as both teams blundered around in search of any semblance of rhythm or cohesion on either the defensive or offensive side of the ball.
The Bears started well enough as they jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, but it wasn’t long before the game devolved into a mess of turnovers, missed layups and uneven play all around.
UCLA drew within 1 point as Cal struggled to hold onto its 20-19 lead with six minutes left in the first half, but the Bears were able to withstand the onslaught and build a cushion heading into the locker room with a precarious hold on a 34-25 lead.
Both squads were absolutely abysmal from beyond the arc as the UCLA Bruins shot only 14.3 percent (2-14), while Cal did them one better at 12.5 percent (1-8). The Bruins shot only 27.6 percent from the floor (8-29), while the Bears managed to throw a few more stones into the abyss for 35.3 percent on field goals (12-34). The Bruins turned it over 13 times against only four total assists, but the Bears still weren’t able to put UCLA away.
“I think they sped us up a little bit in the first half,” said head coach Wyking Jones. “Our guys came out with so much energy on both ends. The energy was good on the defensive end, but on the offensive end, we needed to slow down and execute at a pace we want, our pace, not their pace. Once we got into the groove of the game, it just got tough, and we just couldn’t make shots.”
The second half of play was still unwatchable, but the Bruins managed to rally thanks to heavy contributions from projected NBA first-rounder Kris Wilkes, who finished the game with 27 points and 10 rebounds, and his backcourt mate David Singleton, who produced an efficient 12 points off the bench.
The Bruins improved their shooting dramatically in the second half as they shot 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) from the floor and knocked down eight of their 13 3-point attempts (61.5 percent), with all eight of those shots coming from Singleton and Wilkes.
Meanwhile, Cal found it difficult to keep pace with its Southern California rivals, as Paris Austin (1-7, 2 points), Matt Bradley (2-12, 7 points) and Juhwan Harris-Dyson (0-6, 2 points) were not able to produce offensively, so the scoring load fell on Justice Sueing, Connor Vanover and Darius McNeill.
The Bruins wrestled away their first lead with 11 minutes to go in the second half to make it 44-43. From there on, both teams traded punches, with Cal even regaining the lead thanks to consecutive Grant Anticevich turnaround jumpers around the two-minute mark.
The Bruins fought back to force the game to overtime when the Bears were finally outgunned by the superiorly talented UCLA squad.
Jones took some positives away from the game.
“The effort was there. We are getting closer; the guys are still fighting and competing and playing together, and it’s commendable,” Jones said.
USC awaits this Saturday. Proceed at your own caution, Bears’ fans.
Rory O’Toole covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].