The Cougars defeated the Bears 82-51 for Cal’s largest loss of the season.
Due to being under the weather throughout the week heading into this game, junior guard Matt Bradley came off the bench for the Bears. Bradley not being 100% should have given an edge to WSU early in the contest, but they were also missing their leading scorer, Isaac Bonton, so the scales were balanced heading into tip off.
The Bears and the Cougars got off to quick starts offensively as both teams were able to convert three field goals in the first few minutes of the game. Tied at 7-7 with Bradley not in the game yet was a promising sign for Cal, since it has struggled to create offense without him on the floor.
Generally, the Bears struggle to make shots, which is what puts them behind early and forces them to play catch up in most games. But, surprisingly enough, Cal’s shooting was a strength to open the game as the Bears made four of their first five shots. That said, they only managed to take five shots in almost eight minutes of play.
Why was that the case? Well, turnovers is the simple answer. Cal coughed the ball up four times in that same time frame. So while the Bears got five shot attempts in the opening eight minutes, the Cougars got 10. Letting your opponent take almost double the number of shots as yourself is not exactly a recipe for winning basketball. Eight minutes in and WSU was up five points after taking 11 field goal attempts to Cal’s six.
It also didn’t help that Bradley was not his usual, aggressive self, as he didn’t even attempt a shot until the 12-minute mark. After an even start that saw the two teams tied at seven, the game quickly got out of hand for Mark Fox’s squad as the Cougars went on a 14-3 run over the next six minutes to give themselves a double-digit lead.
Ryan Betley made a three to stop the bleeding temporarily but then WSU ripped off back-to-back threes of its own through Andrej Jakimovski and Myles Warren. Makale Foreman and Bradley tried to make it a competitive game again by going on their own 7-2 run to cut the lead to 10, but that was as close as the Bears got for the rest of the night.
From that point on Cal was simply unable to get enough consistent stops against the Cougar offense. In short, the Bears never found a way to stop the three ball, as WSU went a scorching 12-23 from three. It’s a tall task to beat a team that shoots 50% from three on that volume of shots.
Without Bonton to take the bulk of the scoring burden, it was guard Noah Williams who stepped up. The sophomore came out with guns blazing as he shot 8-11 in the opening period to go for 24 points. He even made each of his four attempts from downtown. There was just no stopping Williams tonight; in fact, he almost outscored the entire Cal team on his own in the first half, as Cal only scored 26 before heading into the locker room despite taking 13 more shot attempts than Williams. He finished with a season-high 32 points.
In the second period, Williams finally cooled down a little bit, missing both of his first two three-point attempts. But with the Bears already down over 20 points, it did not make much of a difference as Cal was powerless to stage a comeback and instead lost their eighth game in their last nine tries.
Tom Aizenberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].