At long last, the final two home games of the season have arrived for Cal men’s basketball. Haas Pavilion can finally rest from somehow being at least 1,000 strong every game this season, even as those on the court fall far below already-low expectations. Thursday against Washington presents an opportunity for Cal to close out a game that it let slip away back in Seattle, and the home finale on Saturday against Washington State allows the Bears to honor their seniors in a matchup against another sub-.500 team.
This season has been one of few highs and innumerable lows, but one relative high has been the Bears’ favorability at home, at least compared to their away games. All three of Cal’s wins this season have come on Pete Newell Court in Haas Pavilion; based on that, these next two games are Cal’s final chances to reach at least five wins this season.
Starting with an evening game on Thursday, Cal welcomes the Huskies into Bear Territory. The last time these two teams met back in January, the Bears were in control until a late-game collapse that ultimately led to an overtime loss. The first 32 minutes of the game looked excellent, and if the Bears could simply tack on another 8 minutes of consistency and execution, they could be en route to a victory over this 15-13 team.
Freshman Grant Newell was a highlight from the last meeting between the Bears and Huskies. Against UW, Newell had the best game of his career thus far, posting a 21-point double-double. DeJuan Clayton, Joel Brown and Lars Thiemann all chipped in with double-digit points as well. These performances, coupled with a strong turnover-forcing defense, were what gave the blue and gold their shot at a win. The Bears will need to put it all together once more to put themselves in position to compete and steal the win.
The Bears cap off their final homestand against Washington State in a Saturday afternoon game that will honor the Cal seniors. However, despite Washington State’s overall record below .500 at 13-15, it enters its Thursday matchup against Stanford with a three-game win streak and could still be flaming hot when it makes the trip across the bay.
For Cal to have any sort of chance, it’ll need to have more offensive production than last time around. Marsalis Roberson was Cal’s leading scorer in just 17 minutes with 11 points, and none of the starters had more than 7 points despite all playing more than 23 minutes. Cal’s defense wasn’t necessarily the problem in that game, as it actually managed to win the turnover battle, and no one player particularly torched it; the Bears just could not put the ball into the basket when they needed to.
DeJuan Clayton is once again a question mark after missing both games in Los Angeles, despite playing against both of the Arizona schools a week and a half ago. His shooting percentages this season have left a lot to be desired, but at the end of the day, he is a willing shooter, something Cal desperately needs in its offense.
Coming off their two worst losses of the year to the LA schools by a combined 72 points, the Bears have truly hit the rock bottom of the endless pit of misery that we call the 2022-2023 basketball season. People usually say the only way to go from the bottom is up, but those same people have also never experienced Cal basketball. Nonetheless, Cal will look to end its season at Haas Pavilion strong and give a positive send-off to the seniors this weekend.