The threat of rain loomed in the air all day. Dark clouds and ephemeral gusts of wind dominated the Berkeley skies with the seemingly perpetual grey horizons almost issuing an ultimatum — rainfall appeared to be inevitable. And it was. Rain came pouring down in the form of buckets during the Cal victory over USD at Haas Pavilion on Monday night.
If the three-ball is on your side, resistance is futile. The Bears put up a phenomenal performance in their victory against the Toreros on Monday night, making it rain with buckets — mainly ones from beyond the arc — left and right. The blue and gold shot an astonishing 71% from downtown in the first half and 63% in the second, averaging 67% from three the entire game. The latter part of the first half saw the Bears go on a 15-0 run after draining five threes in a row from the perimeter, with junior point guard Joel Brown assisting this chain reaction, and Haas pavilion heard the loudest cheers in a good long while.
Four out of the five Cal starters ended the night with double figures, and it seems that the Bears were determined to make their first victory a team effort. Though there were multiple stars in a Cal jersey that night, perhaps one shone brighter than all the others: Brown. Brown’s skilled handles allowed him to push the tempo, a rare sighting for this team, especially under Coach Fox’s administration. Brown’s performance on the defensive end, applying pressure on the Toreros’ passing lanes, forcing turnovers and making stops, should not be easily overlooked.
“At the end of the day, we’re not going into the game saying ‘such and such gotta score 20, or 30.’ When the ball moves, everybody has an opportunity to score and that’s what we did. We played unselfish tonight and it opened a lot of opportunities for everyone.” Brown said during a press conference. “It’s going to be hard to beat us if all of us are scoring around the same numbers.”
Beyond the fact that the Bears were shooting lights out from the perimeter, they not only outplayed their opponents, but also outworked them. Fifth-year Grant Anticevich dove on the ground for loose balls. Senior Andre Kelly fought strong and hard for rebounds. The desperation was real. Looking out at bleachers of blue and gold and feeling the electrifying energy of a home game, Cal was determined to clench its first win on Bear terrain. And it succeeded.
“(I’m) really happy for our young people to find victory today,” said head coach Mark Fox during a press conference. “I thought it was hard fought.”
A victory is a victory. However, there were still areas of the Bears’ game that saw cause for concern. With the Stephen Curry-esque stats Cal put up tonight, a blowout win over any team should be a piece of cake, but the Bears’ lead barely reached double digits throughout the entire night. As it so kindly demonstrated in its opening game, Cal is no stranger to blown leads, and the threat of a Torero comeback was ever-present even as the Bears continued to drain threes.
The proximity of the Toreros during the entire game and the game’s down-to-the-wire nature was testament to the Bears’ sloppily executed offensive plays when the three-pointer wasn’t an option. The three-pointer is a force to be reckoned with, yes, but is it always reliable? No. The Bears need to be careful not to fall in love with the arc as it will stab them in the back as quickly as it helped them grasp this victory. If the Bears want to trek the treacherous Pac-12 path as a formidable team, they’ll have to learn how to attack the basket using deadly dribble penetration and rely on consistent shots in the paint.
Meanwhile, the Bears certainly made it rain in Haas Pavilion while bringing home their first victory of the season. As they host the Southern Utah Thunderbirds come Thursday night, we shall see just how long the wet season lasts.