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Cal Basketball

WSU Preview: Cougars Come to Town Following Huge Loss

March 1, 2019
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The Cal basketball team will have less than 48 hours to savor their stunning victory over No. 25 Washington Thursday night.

Washington State comes to Haas Pavilion Saturday afternoon for the Bears home season finale. Unlike the Bears, who are coming off the upset win over Washington, the season’s unquestioned high point, the Cougars’ most recent effort was their worst in decades. They were obliterated 98-50 Thursday night at Stanford. For the first time in a while, the Bears will be favored.

The Cougars (11-17, 4-11 Pac-12) who have been kept out of the Pac-12 cellar only by the presence of Cal in the standings, had shown some signs of improvement recently. They had won three of their previous five, sweeping the Arizona schools on the road and losing by a mere two points to the powerful Huskies. That’s what made the Thursday night debacle all the more surprising.

Granted the Cougars were missing three key players, Viont’e Daniels, Jeff Pollard and Carter Skaggs, who were all out with concussion symptoms. They suited up just eight players.

The absences partially explain the loss, but certainly not its magnitude. Stanford started fast and just kept going. The Cardinal led by an almost incomprehensible score of 50-11 with three minutes left in the first half.

Head coach Ernie Kent, possibly the only coach in the country whose job security is worse than Wyking Jones’, had an ominous take on the game in his postgame press conference.

“There’s some things that have been brewing on this team and I’ve felt like they’ve grown apart a little bit,” Kent said. “They’ve got to be accountable to themselves, we were in a great rhythm coming out of the desert, but since we’ve been back home there’s been some stuff brewing and guys pulling each other apart.”

Wow. And a look at the game kind of backs up that Kent’s statement, as the Cougars played indifferent defense and offensively had the philosophy of shoot first and think about a pass later.

WSU guard Robert Franks, the leading scorer in the Pac-12 who had  24 points in the Cougars’ 82-59 win over the Bears in Pullman Jan. 17, managed just 11 Thursday night. He was 1-for-7 from three-point range after coming in averaging 40.8 percent. CJ Elleby (No. 2 above) with 16 points and Isiah Wade with 14 gave the Cougars any consistent scoring Thursday night.
As bad as it was, the final score might not have been the worst number for WSU. The Cougars got the free throw line only nine times, they had a mere six assists, and were outrebounded, 46-26.

All that leaves Kent, whose five-year record at Pullman is 58-94 with zero postseason appearances, to try figure it out.

“You’ve got to understand what it takes to win at this level, what it takes to be a team at this level,” he said.  “You’ve got to buy-in, if one guy doesn’t buy-in, two guys, it’s difficult. You cannot fake it, it can’t be one night we’re there and the next night we’re not. And that’s the lesson they’re learning right now, when we’ve bought in, this team was fantastic.”

The Bears, meanwhile, had to be enjoying the rare experience of a day that followed a victory. Thursday they were able to reverse a couple of trends that had plagued them recently. Their defense did not disappear in the second half. If anything it got better. The Huskies, who scorched the net at a 55.6 percentage clip in the first half, hit just 42.9 in the second. After going 10-of-18 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, they were just 1-for-9 in the second.  Crisp, who was 5-for-8 beyond the arc in the first half, missed all four of his treys in the second half, including the desperation shot at the end.

The Bears were able to navigate the Huskies’ usually dominant zone defense. Jones said Connor Vanover was a key to that.

“When you have a 7-3 target, it makes it a little bit easier,” he said. “Early we were able to get it to Connor at the top of the high post. ...They do a great job of attacking from the backside and they caught us as couple of times on that, but we did a great job of just reading it.”

Matisse Thybulle, the reigning conference Defensive Player of the Year, was reduced to almost a non-factor. He had just two blocks and one steal, none of them significant.

Jones said he’s confident this was a start of a trend.

“I’m feeling like we’ll be able to ride this and guys will be playing with a lot more confidence,” he said. “The blueprint is there. If you share the ball and play as a team, good things happen. This is really an exclamation point on that statement.”

Vanover agreed. “:We knew we had it in us. We just had to find it,” he said. “It took awhile, but I think now, moving forward, we can have a clear head about, `If we can beat Washington, why not everybody else?’ “

Notes

Cal leads the all-time series 79-52 and 48-19 in Berkeley….Daniels, Pollard and Skaggs are all expected to be out again Saturday, ..The Bears, who lost 16 games in a row before Thursday, have won two consecutive games once this season, Dec. 8 and 15 against San Diego State and Cal Poly. … WSU JC transfers Ahmed Ali and Jervae Robinson have split the point guard duties with Ali having started 20 games and Robinson six. ...Sophomore JC transfer, Marvin Cannon leads the Pac-12 in free throw percentage at 91.0 (79-89).

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Discussion from...

WSU Preview: Cougars Come to Town Following Huge Loss

oskidunker
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Game ranked even by espn. I would think Cal should be favore, especially if the 4 Wspu players are dtill concussed.
When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near.

Andy Stanley
dbush518
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Staff
According to Latest Line in the Chron, WSU is 1.5 point favorite. If I bet I would jump on the Bears. Fortunately, I don't. Had I bet my feelings of what I thought was :"a lock" on the Washington game, some bookie would now own the deed to my house
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