Cal lost 59-57 to Oregon State on Thursday night despite a highly efficient 20 points from Matt Bradley and 15 from Andre Kelly. The rest of the team combined for just 22 points, which made it next to impossible for the Bears to beat a mediocre team in the Beavers.
Cal’s 6-0 run to open the game was an unusual sight, to say the least, as was its 14-2 lead within the first five minutes. Offense has been perhaps the Bears’ biggest weakness all season, but they were on fire to start this match as the Bears made each of their first seven shots on the way to an early double-digit lead. Andre Kelly carried Cal early on, as he had 8 of the team’s first 18 points.
The Bears were also getting some luck to fall their way as the Beavers missed a few good looks from three to give Cal a 22-11 lead a little under halfway through the period. OSU also had the disadvantage at the free-throw line as it struggled to get to the line while the Bears earned six early trips to the charity stripe. This changed quickly, however, as the free-throw count was tied with under three minutes remaining in the half.
After a hot start, things started to turn for the blue and gold. A 10-point lead quickly shrunk down to just two as the Beavers went on an 8-0 run led by their leading scorer, Ethan Thompson. Thompson struggled early on, mustering just two points through the first 14 minutes of the game. But after getting some free throws and a quick lay-in, he and OSU were back on track.
Cal somewhat halted the Beaver run by ending the half on a 7-4 run to give them a solid five-point lead at the half. For the Bears’ standards, this was a great first half and was a rare moment of pride in this disappointing season.
Unfortunately for Cal, the Beavers dashed that moment of hope early on in the second half, as they went from down five to up four in a flash. Bradley was not ready to lose this one, though, as he scored back-to-back buckets to tie the game. The guard was relatively invisible in the first half, so maybe this was the run that would get him going.
But Bradley’s efforts went unmatched, as he was the only source of offense for the Bears for the first 12 minutes of the period. The remaining Cal players went 0-9 from the field, including six misses from downtown. OSU figured out the Bears’ defense and started forcing the Bears into more three-point attempts rather than letting them get inside the paint and draw fouls.
After missing five straight field goals, Bradley again decided to take it upon himself to keep Cal in the game with a strong and-one finish over freshman forward Dearon Tucker. Nine minutes into the period, Bradley had all of the Bears seven points. Despite this incredible offensive slump, Cal was only down three with plenty of time remaining.
Bradley finally got some support when Hyder tossed a beautiful alley-oop pass to Kelly for a dunk. With that, the OSU lead was back down to three with 7 minutes and 55 seconds to go.
With senior guard Ethan Thompson having a quiet night, it was senior center Roman Silva who stepped up for the Beavers scoring 13-second half points to keep Cal at bay.
In the first half, it took a full team effort for the Bears to hold a slight lead over OSU. But in the second half, with everyone around Bradley struggling to score, it looked like another loss was imminent. Down four with just two minutes remaining, it felt as though a lot would need to go Cal’s way for them to pull off a win.
With 90 seconds left, Kelly made two clutch free throws to make it a one-possession game, but a series of turnovers by Brown and Bradley ended the game. Holding an opponent to just 59 points is great, but scoring only 57 is quite the opposite. As far as losses go, this is one of the better ones for the Bears and may be a sign of things to come in their final game this Saturday at 1 p.m. against Oregon.
Tom Aizenberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].