It feels like just yesterday that UC Davis was in town to open the season in Haas Pavilion, but this past weekend ushered in the final two home games of the season. In two relatively similar games, Cal’s comeback attempts fell short and the Bears lost 65-56 and 63-57 to Washington and Washington State, respectively.
The Huskies came into Haas Pavilion on a rainy Thursday night, but despite the splashes being made outside by Mother Nature, there were no splashes to be found inside from the Bears. Cal’s downfall against Washington was its horrendous shooting from deep, only making two shots for 16 attempts and not making its first three until 33 minutes into the game.
To make matters worse, Washington played a 2-3 zone for nearly the entire game, and one major way to break a zone is to shoot your way out of it. The 2-3 zone shook up Cal’s typical motion offense that relies on ball screens and post entries, stuffing any drives and forcing Cal out of its game plan to settle for long threes.
“Playing against a zone for basically 40 minutes, you’ve got to make more threes than we did today (to win),” said head coach Mark Fox in the postgame press conference.
Halftime saw the Bears down by 8, and that lead got extended to as much as 18 by UW. Despite a valiant 13-3 Cal run filled with forced turnovers that brought the lead down to just 6 points with about four minutes remaining, Cal simply ran out of gas. Washington regained control and ultimately took the win by a score of 65-56.
Sam Alajiki, who made Cal’s only two 3-pointers of the game, led with 13 points. Freshman Grant Newell also had a solid game with 12 points, but the blue and gold as a whole just could not do enough on the offensive end to capture the win.
“We just didn’t finish enough plays,” coach Fox emphasized over and over in the postgame presser.
Two days later, on a chilly Saturday afternoon, Haas Pavilion roared in support of the Cal seniors. Kuany Kuany, Joel Brown, Lars Thiemann, DeJuan Clayton and Jarred Hyder were recognized for their time as Golden Bears.
However, only the first two of those names were able to suit up for Saturday’s faceoff against Washington State. In honor of the other three unable to play on Senior Day, Brown and Kuany both played fantastic basketball.
Brown had one of his best games of the season, scoring 13 points to go with seven rebounds and tying his career high of nine assists. Kuany had a hot start with 8 points in the first 10 minutes, ending with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Following the game, both seniors expressed their gratitude for the entirety of the Cal basketball program, thanking everybody from teammates and coaches to photographers and social media members.
Alas, the blue and gold could not give the seniors a storybook ending on Pete Newell Court.
Although this game was much closer throughout than Thursday’s contest, with the lead never reaching double digits for the first 38 minutes of the game, it slipped out of Cal’s reach toward the end. It struggled heavily with guarding Cougars’ star big man Mouhamed Gueye and guard TJ Bamba, especially without much consistent offensive production to combat it.
On a positive note, however, turnovers were kept to a season-low six and Cal shot better than the Cougars.
“We have two road games next week, (and) I think there’s a lot of energy and I see a lot of positivity that we can grab from this,” Brown said in a postgame press conference.
The Bears close out their 2022-2023 regular season on the road at Oregon and Oregon State this Thursday and Saturday, hoping to at least reach five wins.