To call 2020 a disaster would be an understatement. Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong. People have been waiting for 2021 to arrive for months, and it is finally here. And what better way to open the new year than with a rematch between Cal and Oregon State?
Coming off a defeat at the hands of Oregon, the blue and gold are looking to avenge their season-opening loss at the hands of the Beavers. Oregon State defeated Cal 71-63 on that fateful November afternoon.
However, the Bears have gotten their offense together since that day and have scored at least 69 points in each of their last four games. In those contests, Cal has also managed to shoot 40.7% from three-point range. It is no coincidence that the Bears only go as far as their outside shooting takes them.
Cal’s biggest concern heading into this matchup is its ability to win on the road. The Bears have yet to win a road game this season and have dropped all three conference matchups so far. In order to have a successful season, the blue and gold will have to learn to win away from Haas Pavilion.
One of the Beavers’ biggest strengths is not only their ability to get to the free-throw line but also their tendency to capitalize on those opportunities. They have attempted at least 20 free throws in each of their past four games, while making 17 or more in all of them. Cal will need to play very disciplined defense to prevent the Beavers from getting to the charity stripe. The blue and gold have not had that same capability.
The Bears have made more than 17 free throws in just one game so far, and this was not even against an NCAA team. Cal hasn’t been particularly accurate at the line, making just 68.5% on the season and not hitting the 73% mark in eight of its last nine games. This is a stark difference from OSU’s 78% average in its past four games.
Both the Beavers and the Bears are extremely reliant on their number one scoring options. For OSU, that player is senior Ethan Thompson. Thompson is having a career year thus far, averaging north of 17 points per game and making a career-best 44% of his three-pointers.
The Bears will be led by junior Matt Bradley, who is also scoring at a career-high rate of 19.6 points per game. However, unlike Thompson, Bradley is shooting a career-low 33% from downtown. If both Thompson and Bradley’s outside shooting percentages regress to the mean, Cal will have good odds to start the new year on the right path.
Tom Aizenberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].