It only took two games for Cal to get its first conference win this year, as the Bears defeated Washington State 73-66. Not only did the game mark Cal’s first conference win, but it was the Bears’ first win of the new decade.
Cal trailed by 14 early in the game and it seemed like fans were going to get more of the same — another loss coming from the struggling blue and gold offense. In the first 10 minutes, the Bears had only attempted 10 shots. And even worse, they had turned the ball over 11 times.
The first 15 minutes were completely in the Cougars’ favor. The crowd was dead, the Cal players looked tired and there was no spark in the Bears’ offense. Senior guard Paris Austin brought that spark.
The Bears went on a 10-0 run in just over two minutes of play with Austin leading the way off the bench, and Matt Bradley contributing buckets as well. After a slow and sluggish start, Cal started attacking the basket, moving the ball around and playing the game with energy that hadn’t been seen all season.
Cal closed the first half on an 18-3 run, finishing with 40 points, tying its highest first half score of the season. The Bears wouldn’t look back from their halftime lead, as they came out in the second half with the same intensity.
Austin and Bradley continued to dominate after the break. Bradley recorded a career-high 26 points and tied his career high in rebounds with 10, giving him his second career double-double. Austin finished with a season-high 17 points and just to emphasize even more how important his performance was off the bench, recorded a +21 in just 28 minutes.
“I just took what the defense gave me. You know, I just wanted to be aggressive, take open shots, and it fell for me tonight,” Austin said of his performance.
Freshman Joel Brown was called upon to start at point guard against Washington State tonight, and he did a good job of running the team and controlling the offense. Brown and Austin turned in impressive performances as neither guard turned the ball over.
Cougars guard CJ Elleby was on Cal’s radar tonight, as he came into the game leading Washington State with 19 points per game this season. Although he poured in 22 points, he did so on just 6-17 shooting. The Bears’ ability to limit him offensively played a large part in the team’s victory.
The Cougars were able to keep the game close for the entire second half, but when it came down to the wire, Matt Bradley was there to put the game out of reach. With just 28 seconds left to play, Bradley drained a three on an isolation play to put the Bears up by six and put the game out of reach.
“Big time players make big plays and he did it for us,” Paris Austin said of Matt Bradley’s late three to ice the game.
After a rough first 10 minutes, Cal looked to be at its best tonight. If the team can play how they did for the final 30 minutes tonight every single game for a full 40 minutes, the Bears could actually be a fun team to watch this season.
Cal will host Washington on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. for its next game, with the chance to go to 2-1 in conference play and keep things headed in an upward direction.