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Cal Basketball

Bears Come up Short in 97-90 Double OT Loss at Butler

December 9, 2023
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HINKLE FIELDHOUSE - Three Cal players with over 20 points and late-game heroics in regulation and overtime by point guard Jalen Cone were not enough to save the Bears in a hard-fought 97-90 double overtime loss to Butler, their 73rd non-conference home win of the last 75 contests.

8-2 Butler outrebounded the Bears 40-37 but the Bulldogs had 14 second-chance points on their 11 offensive rebounds compared to the Bears’ 7. The Bears also had 18 turnovers to 14 for Butler, giving the Bulldogs another 3-point advantage on points off turnovers.

"Double overtime today," Madsen said after the game. “I was proud of our guys for fighting back and battling. We needed to get more defensive stops late in the game. Give credit to Butler. They made the plays when they had to. They made key plays and got key stops and made key scores in situations they needed to at the end.”

"I'm proud of our players. I told them I was proud of them for how hard they fought and battled the entire time and also reiterated, hey, we have to get better, we have to improve. You have to start making plays all game that will allow us to win a game on the road like this against a great opponent."

The game started auspiciously for Cal as the Bears hit six of their first 10 shots, including 4-of-6 from the perimeter to take an early 16-4 lead before a stunned Butler crowd with 4:44 of the game. Sparkplug guard Jalen Cone hit his first two 3-point attempts to get into an early rhythm, with center Fardaws Aimaq chipping in with a trey from the top of the key.

Most of the early calls went against the Bears as well as several no-calls, including hard contact on wing Jaylon Tyson which left the versatile junior limping off the court into the locker room, seemingly favoring his ankle. Instead of getting the foul call they instead whistled Tyson for the offensive foul, adding insult to injury. The Bears were whistled for five fouls in the opening 10 minutes to only one for Butler. The Bulldogs didn’t pick up their second foul until 3:47 was left in the first half.

Tyson’s loss was immediately felt as Butler went on a 7-0 run after his departure. The run was stopped on a steal and a 3-point jumper from frosh point guard Rodney Brown from the wing to push the lead to 21-14 with 9:04 remaining in the half.

By the time Tyson returned to the game with four minutes left in the half, Butler had whittled down the Bears’ lead to 3, 30-27 but a Keonte Kennedy lay followed by a steal and a fast break reverse jam pushed the Bears’ lead back to 7 a minute later. The Bulldogs closed the half strong on a 7-3 run, including a Finley Bizjack baseline 3 in the closing seconds of the half as the Bears took a 37-34 lead into the locker room. It would prove to be a critical defensive lapse among many for the Bears in the loss.

The Bears were led at the break by Aimaq, who hit both his 3’s with 12 total points from the floor. He was fouled without getting the call several times in the first half. Kennedy also had 12 on 5-of-6 from the floor, including a pair of 3’s.

Butler wasted no time getting on track in the second half, with guard DJ Davis nailing a 3 to start the half and tie the game at 37. A Bears’ turnover and an alley-oop dunk by center Jalen Thomas soon gave the Bulldogs their first lead as the Butler crowd went wild.

Tyson stemmed the tide, hitting a pair of free throws along with a 3 on the next possession - his first points of the game to put the Bears back in front. Tyson would go on to score 16 points with 7 rebounds and 4 assists but 5 turnovers somewhat mitigated Tyson’s impact. A Grant Newell layup pushed the Bears lead back to five, 44-39 with 17:21 remaining. Those would be Newell’s only two points in 33 minutes of play before fouling out in OT. Newell also had only 2 rebounds and a critical 4 turnovers in the loss.

A pair of Butler buckets and wo more 3’s gave the Bulldogs the lead again on a 10-4 Butler run as they pulled ahead 49-48 with 14:29 left. A minute later, center ND Okafor was helped off the court with a nasty-looking knee injury.

After a Tyson layup, Butler went on a 9-0 run to take their biggest lead, 60-51 on an Andre Screen layup with 10:08 remaining.

The Bulldogs were up 10 when the Bears finally strung together a couple of buckets and stops as Cone stopped a cold streak with a 3 and Tyson converted a driving layup with 4:57 remaining to narrow the Butler lead to 5, 68-63. An Aimaq jam in traffic brought it to 3 with 3:47 remaining to stretch the run to 7. A short Brooks jumper stopped the run at 2:21 with Butler up 70-65.

On the next possession, Aimaq finally got a call on contact under the bucket, hitting a spinning bank shot and converting the and-1 to narrow the Butler lead to two with 2:08 remaining. A critical Davis trey gave the Bulldogs a 5-point cushion on the next possession with 2:21 left. 

A slicing Kennedy layup and a defensive stop with :25 remaining gave the Bears a chance to tie it. Cone missed a jumper with :08 left after the timeout but a clutch Aimaq rebound and kick out to Cone gave the Bears new life with a Cone trey with :02 left, forcing overtime after a Butler turnover at the buzzer with the score knotted at 73.

The Bears could not get stops in OT as Butler scored 8 of the first 12 points, including buckets on three straight possessions to go up 81-77 with 1:58 remaining in OT. A pair of ice-water-in-his-veins 3-point jumpers by Cone gave the Bears the lead, 83-81 with :25 left but a Brooks jumper in the paint with :11 left knotted the game at 83. The Bears had a chance with the win but a Tyson driving shot just rimmed out with :02 left to send the game into a second OT period.

After the Bears got the first points of the second OT, they again could not generate stops, allowing a 9-point Butler run, with a Brooks 3-point jumper pushing Butler’s lead to 7, 92-85 with 1:51 left. A Kennedy layup finally ended the run but a Jahmyl Telford trey put a dagger in the Bears’ heart with the shot clock running down with :32 remaining. A pair of Alexander free throws and a Cone 3 closed out the game in the heartbreaking loss for the Bears.

"Wow, that was a high-power game," Butler head coach Thad Motta said after the game. "That was a high, hard basketball game.

“These guys, I'll give them credit. They have great respect because that team of theirs is the best 3-5 basketball team college basketball. They're finally healthy and we were trying to get guys to understand how well they were playing and how well-coached they were. As I told our guys after, you give us a lot of credit. We took a heck of a punch to start the game being down 18 (16) to 4."

The Bears were led by Aimaq with 24 points and 16 rebounds, his sixth double double of the season. Cone had 23 points on 8-of-20 from the floor, including 7 treys - his second straight game with 7 from deep. Kennedy had 20 on a particularly efficient day, hitting 9-of-14 from the field along with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in the loss. 

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Bears Come up Short in 97-90 Double OT Loss at Butler

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