Cal's Glass Half-Full

Jamal Boykin (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Say what you want about Cal's mistakes in their 72-68 loss to the UCLA Bruins. But, as Coach Montgomery clearly stated, don't discount the effort. Don't discount Boykin and Gutierrez diving on the floor for loose balls. Don't discount Harper Kamp fighting for offensive boards. But, most importantly, don't discount the Bears letting up on the gas pedal for the final few weeks of the regular season…

"We showed heart… a lot of heart. We didn't give up."

In recent years, a California Golden Bears team down by nine points with five minutes to play would have folded. But this Bear team did not let up, against a program that has made three straight Final Four appearances, for good measure.

No, instead, these Bears fought back—enough to have a chance to tie the game with the luck of a steal or a missed free throw.

And, the chances would have been greater if not for the play of UCLA guard Darren Collison.

Collison, a senior leader who has been on each of UCLA's recent Final Four teams, scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half. With 1:30 to play and the Bears knocking on the door, Collison made the biggest play of the night.

With the shot clock about to hit zero, Collison threw a one-handed prayer from the free throw line that somehow rattled its way to the bottom of the net. The shot put the Haas crowd of 11,877 back into their seats. But, more importantly, it increased the Bruin lead to seven points.

"That's why he is what he is," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, referring to Collison.

"The ability to make a play in late clock is probably what separates UCLA from a lot of people. They've got such a tremendous amount of confidence in the ability to score late, particularly with Collison. I just think that Collison is such a clutch player, and he makes plays in critical situations. In late clock, he's as good as there is."

But even then, the Bears still continued their fighting spirit in front of a nationally televised audience. After a pair of Harper Kamp free throws and a Jerome Randle quick three, the Bears found themselves down by only three with 16 seconds remaining in the game. From there, the Bears nearly capitalized on a couple of chances for a steal, and were just one missed free throw away from having one last chance at tying the game.

However, when UCLA guard Josh Shipp hit the second of two free throws, the game finally was in doubt. But the Bears still came out positive about their performance.

"We showed heart… a lot of heart," said Randle. "We didn't give up."

So, say what you want about some of the more negative Cal storylines: committing 12 turnovers in the first half, being on the wrong end of a seven-point possession, and shooting 25% from three-point range in the second half.

But don't discount Cal's heart and vigor in trying to come back and win against a ranked team with tremendous success—both recently and historically. Don't discount an effort that could pay off big dividends in the not-so-distant future.

Jerome Randle didn't.

"This is a learning experience for us," Randle said. "This gets us ready for the postseason."


Game Notes

  • Jordan Wilkes was the only senior honored on senior day, as he recently announced that he would not be returning for the 2009-2010 season. His father Jamaal Wilkes, a former UCLA legend himself, escorted Wilkes.
  • As Hall-of-Fame coach Bob Knight was walking to the television booth for ESPN's broadcast, the Cal student section broke out into a loud chant of "Take off that red shirt!" Knight, who was wearing his trademark red sweater, turned back to the students to reveal that he was also wearing a red shirt underneath, inciting louder boo's from the crowd. That morning, during ESPN's College Gameday broadcast, Knight was also harassed for his red attire on air.
  • At halftime, hall-of-fame coach Digger Phelps broke into dance with the Cal band and cheerleaders, inciting laughs from the crowd.
  • Besides Wilkes and ESPN's coaches, many former college basketball players were in attendance. From ESPN, former Duke player Jay Bilas and former North Carolina player Hubert Davis were on set. Doing UCLA's radio broadcast was former UCLA star Tracy Murray. Finally, former Cal star Kevin Johnson was sitting courtside.


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