It was a disappointing ending to a disappointing season. Playing without stars Jabari Bird and Ivan Rabb, the No. 1 seed California Golden Bears were dismantled in the first half by the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners, and lost 73-66 at Haas Pavilion on Tuesday night in a first round NIT game.
Bird was still under the concussion protocol, and Rabb was scratched with foot problems that have lingered all season. Coach Cuonzo Martin described the problem as plantar fasciitis in "probably both feet."
Don Coleman scored a career-high 26 points, 23 in the second half to lead the Bears. Coleman got the start, and was aggressive going to the basket, as he made 7 of 19 attempts. He was 1 of 5 from distance, and just 11 of 16 from the free throw line.
Grant Mullins added 10 in his final game at Cal. He was the only other Bear in double figures.
"A lot of credit to Bakersfield," said coach Martin. "They played hard, they competed, they set a great tone the first five or ten minutes."
Martin was clearly concerned with how his team would start after the disappointment of being excluded from the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon.
Cal (21-13) came out flat and appeared disinterested, and dug a huge hole for themselves. The Bears shot an anemic 4 for 24 (17%) in the opening half with 9 turnovers. The visitors shredded the usually strong Bears defense. The No. 8 seed Roadrunners (23-9) made 16 of 32, including a sizzling 8 for 13 from beyond the arc.
The embarrassing halftime score was 44-19 for CSU Bakersfield. The Bears did not make a bucket in the final 4:48 of the half. Cal had closed the margin to 15, but were outscored 11-1 to conclude the half.
"We came out with low energy just because it's not the NCAA Tournament, it's the NIT," said Coleman.
The Bears showed some fight after the intermission. They went to a press and started to knock down some triples. Martin went to an unusual lineup with Mullins, Colman, Cole Welle, Sam Singer and Roger Moute a Bidias. Coleman knocked down a trey, and Moute a Bidias made two.
The Bears eventually cut the deficit to six (72-66) in the final minute, but it was far too little and too late. They had been down by 17 with just over seven minutes to play. The Roadrunners kept it close by missing free throws: in the final 2:23, CSU Bakersfield missed 8 of 18.
Both teams were poor from the foul line. CSU Bakersfield finished 18 of 31 (58%), and Cal was 23 for 37 (62%).
"I thought our guys did a great job in the second half, battling back and competing," said Martin.
Focus will now shift to Martin's status. He has been linked in the media to open jobs at Illinois and Missouri, and he has ties to both places.
It is also expected that Rabb will declare for the NBA draft. The loss to Oregon on Friday night in Las Vegas was likely his final game as a Golden Bear.
The offseason starts now with many questions, and at this point, not many answers.
- The small crowd was announced as 1,778.
- Dedrick Basile led the Roadrunners with 18 points, with 4 of 8 from three. Shon Briggs came off the bench with 17.
- Cal shot just 33% from the field, 18 of 54. CSUB converted 23 of 55 (42%).