Sometimes you just have that gut feeling about how things are going to go. Before anything has even happened, you just have that feeling something is up. Something is off.
That was the case Sunday at Haas Pavilion, where Cal hosted Harvard in its final nonconference game of the season. From before the tip, it was easy to tell that things weren’t going the Bears’ way. The arena was almost silent, there were plenty of empty seats and Oski was nowhere to be found.
And the atmosphere was reflected in Cal’s first half play, as the Bears never held a lead. The Crimson held the Bears to just four points in the first six minutes of play, and Cal’s offensive struggles continued throughout the half.
At the break, Harvard was outshooting Cal 57% to 38%, had 11 points off of turnovers to Cal’s zero and had shot 14 free throws to Cal’s one. The Bears’ leading scorer this season, Matt Bradley, shot 2-9 in the first half and 0-4 from the three-point line. Cal simply couldn’t find the bottom of the net.
In the second half, the scoring struggles continued. Cal finished the game shooting an awful 21-60. The 35% shooting performance is representative of the Bears’ struggling offense, an issue that the team will be hoping to fix with conference play just a few days away.
Cal was able to fix some of its struggles in the latter part of the game, as the team ended up shooting 17-23 from the free-throw line in the final period after going 0-1 in the first, and committed just one turnover in the second half after committing eight in the prior half.
Cal appeared to have a chance for a bit late in the game, as guard Kareem South scored five straight points for the Bears to cut the deficit to eight with a little more than four minutes to play. The crowd had finally come alive and it seemed as if Cal had momentum for the first time. That momentum lasted about 15 seconds.
On the following Crimson possession, the Bears committed a foul on a three-point attempt, and the game slipped away, as Cal could never regain the short spark that the team had. The game is the Bears’ third straight loss as they end conference play with a 6-7 record.
Despite shooting 4-14 this game, Bradley reached double digits in scoring for the 12th game this year. His efforts are relentless even when the team is struggling.
“Win or loss, we’re just going to come in and compete at our best,” Bradley said.
The Bears weren’t able to find offensive efficiency, as their only player that shot above 50% on five or more field goal attempts was guard Juhwan Harris-Dyson, who finished the game with eight points in 13 minutes.
“One of the things that I think they’re gonna have to deal with every time is the focus of the defense,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox of Bradley and South’s scoring struggles.
If teams continue to key in on shutting down the scoring duo of South and Bradley, the Bears will need a clear third option to step up and take on some of the scoring load. It was clear this game that Cal didn’t know who to run the offense through on most possessions, and a 35% shooting performance was the result.
The Bears’ next game will be at rival Stanford on January 2., as Pac-12 play begins and Cal hopes for a fresh start.