In the Cal men’s basketball game versus Arizona State, the regular season came down to those last few seconds on the clock. Cal was trailing by four points in what had been a tightly contested game, and the Bears desperately wanted to finish off what had been a disappointing season with a big win.
Thirty-four seconds left, and the ball found its way into the hands of junior guard Tyrone Wallace, who at the time had a team-high 18 points. At the top of the key, he sunk the trey, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to just one.
Twenty-four seconds left, and sophomore guard Jordan Mathews had to foul, sending Arizona State’s Bo Barnes to the line, where he made both free throws. The Wildcats were back up by three.
Nineteen seconds left, and the Bears were all ready to run a set play after a Cal timeout. The ball made its way to Mathews, who was supposed to go off the pick and get a shot. But there were no more miraculous late wins in store for the Bears, and Mathews missed. As the clock continued to wind down, Cal wouldn’t be able to fight its way back, ultimately falling 74-70 to Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday afternoon.
“That’s the play that we scripted and we run in practice,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin of Mathews’ shot. “I thought we got the look we wanted, but it just didn’t go in.”
While the final shot didn’t go the Bears’ way, Cal did manage to keep the game close for almost the whole game, trailing by just three at halftime. Still, after starting the game on a 9-0 run, with 5:26 left in the half, the Wildcats took a 28-26 lead — a lead Cal would never regain. In the second half, the Bears battled back from a 10-point deficit with just under seven minutes left to keep themselves in the game. It wasn’t enough.
The Bears were hurt by foul trouble, especially when senior forward David Kravish had to go out early, the loss of his 6-foot-10 presence hurting the Bears inside. Without Kravish, there isn’t anybody to produce in the post. During the time that Kravish was out, the Wildcats were able to start their run while Cal struggled mightily, at one point going on a 2-for-20 stretch of shooting in that first half.
“David is our best post man, and right now, he’s probably the only one we can throw the ball in to and expect him to score on his own,” Wallace said. “When he is out, it definitely changes the game. He’s also a rim protector. A lot of the shots around the rim he would challenge, so it definitely hurts.”
Kravish said it was hard to get into a rhythm in the game once he got into foul trouble.
“It’s never fun to get into foul trouble, because it gets you out of the flow of the game, especially when we were up early,” Kravish said. “Arizona State did a great job of battling, but the fouls just get you out of the flow, and it’s very frustrating.”
Wallace himself finished with 23 points on 8-for-17 shooting and made two 3-pointers on as many attempts. The junior, who played well in his first full season as the floor general on the court, also walked away with six rebounds and six assists. Cal also got production from sophomore guard Jabari Bird — who had 13 points — and Mathews and sophomore guard Sam Singer, who had 11.
The Wildcats got a big game out of senior forward Shaquielle McKissic, who had a team-high 21 points in his final home game. Arizona State also had a big night from sophomore forward Savon Goodman, who had 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
“Savon killed us down low,” Wallace said. “I thought we fought, we came back with a run and just didn’t have enough.”
In the end, Cal just couldn’t muster any more late-game magic or heroics and, despite putting up a fight, couldn’t end the season on a high note.
“Both teams battled,” Martin said. “We got off to a great start and just came up short.”