Playing just okay isn’t something you can do when, statistically speaking, you’re a below average team. Playing an okay game isn’t what you’re aiming for — you want to improve game after game, especially with a young team like Cal’s. The Bears played just okay for most of Saturday, but in the clutch, the team and the fans came through, snaring a 69-67 victory over Oregon State.
Just a few minutes into the game, Cal went on a 7-0 run over a 1:21 stretch after Oregon State opened the game with a dunk. It was clear that the Bears weren’t intimidated, and the early 7-2 start was some of the best offense the Bears have displayed all season.
Guard Matt Bradley got off to a hot start with nine points on 3-4 shooting in the first 15 minutes. His stepback three got the crowd energized for the first time with just over seven minutes to play in the first half.
Early on both teams were looking decent — not spectacular offensively, not flawless defensively. With just a few minutes left in the first half, however, the Beavers’ offense exploded.
Cal endured a four-minute scoring drought and OSU went on an 8-0 run during that time led by starting forward Tres Tinkle. He got to the basket with ease and had the Bears looking lost on defense. Tinkle finished the first half with 12 points and shot 4-9 from the field.
After leading 30-24, Cal went scoreless for the final four minutes, giving the Beavers a 32-30 halftime lead over the Bears.
After a Paris Austin layup to start the second half, Bradley scored nine straight for Cal and was up to 18 points early in the second half. He and Tinkle were battling it out to give their sides the edge.
Two putbacks in a row and a block from forward Andre Kelly got the Bears’ crowd on their feet and roaring loud for the first time since early in the first half. Immediately after, however, Beavers forward Kylor Kelley got his own rebound and was fouled by Kelly on the putback. After light shoving from both teams and a long review, an unsportsmanlike technical foul was called on both Kelley and Kelly.
Oregon State took the lead after sinking the subsequent four free throws, but Kelly replied on the other end with a putback slam and then another tip-in on the next possession to give Cal a 51-48 lead. He was fired up, and so were the Bears.
“Yeah, he balled out. He balled out for sure,” Bradley said of his teammate’s performance.
The teams battled into the final minute and with Cal up 68-67 with under 30 seconds to play, the Beavers were forced to foul and send the Bears to the line for a one and one opportunity. Bradley missed the free throw but made up for it on the other end by drawing a charge on Tinkle after Kelly’s initial block. Cal retook possession with the lead intact.
Oregon State sent Bradley to the line again, this time for two shots. After missing the first again, Bradley made the second. With 3.9 seconds remaining, freshman Joel Brown pressed the Beavers full court after the free throw, forcing Oregon State into a desperate, full court shot. The Bears won, 69-67, elevating them to 10-11 on the season and 4-4 in conference play.
“I don’t know. I mean, I’m trying to worry about how to get 5-4,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox of the team’s conference record. “I’m really proud of our team. This was a hard week because we played three good teams in seven days and they were hard-fought games and it took a lot of energy emotionally, mentally, physically — and to come out of the week with a couple victories for this group I think is progress.”
Bradley had an exceptional game, finishing with 23 points and six rebounds. Kelly was also a much-needed spark for Cal, and had an outstanding day with 14 points on 7-8 shooting, six rebounds and a team-high +8 in just 21 minutes.
The Bears’ next game will be on the road as they face Colorado with hopes to win their first game away from Haas Pavilion. Tipoff will be Thursday at 5:00 p.m.