The first time out didn’t figure to be a work of art for the Cal basketball team.
And it wasn’t.
The Bears, who didn’t get gather as a full team for the first time until Oct. 17, could not assemble a consistent performance in their season opener on Wednesday, losing 71-63 to Pac-12 rival Oregon State in a non-conference game at Corvallis, Ore.
The teams were playing for the first time in 259 days, since the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas was abruptly ended after one day as the COVID-19 pandemic began to gets its legs.
Junior Matt Bradley, a preseason All-Pac-12 selection, shot poorly from the field (5-for-16) but scored a game-high 21 points, thanks to a 10-for-11 effort at the free throw line.
Providing a source of encouragement were the Bears’ two graduate transfer guards. Makale Foreman, who arrived from Stony Brook, came off the bench to score 10 points — all in the second half, and Penn grad Ryan Betley started and score nine points.
Andrew Kelly scored nine points off the bench and Grant Anticevich grabbed 10 rebounds.
But there were plenty of issues: Cal shot poorly to start the game and wound up just under 40 percent. The Bears were out rebounded 43-32, allowing th Beavers 13 offensive boards. And defense wasn’t there on a steady basis.
“I think we started the game poorly offensively because we were so excited to play, I don’t think we were ever organized,” second-year coach Mark Fox said. “Defensively, I thought we gave the extra effort once we got down double figures. You’ve got to give that extra effort the whole time.
"We just got pounded on the backboards — that was disappointing. There’ll be a lot to learn from this game.”
Betley and Foreman gave the Bears a little of what Fox wanted when he recruited them — perimeter shooting. Betley made his first two 3-point attempts and the two combined to go 5-for-13 from deep, compared to 1-for-12 for the rest of the team.
“They’re both good players. They shot the ball really well,” Fox said. “I think they’re going to be guys that make an impact on our team. As they get comfortable playing in a new system, I think they’ll just get better and better.”
Bradley need offensive support, but he must play better, too, Fox said.
“He can’t shoot 33 percent in the game. He has to be more efficient also. And he will be,” Fox said. “He needs help. I think Ryan and Makale showed they’ll be guys who can add some scoring punch. And hopefully Andre can continue to play his way back into shape where he was a years ago, and then we’ll have that scoring around Matt.”
The game was the starting debut of point guard Joel Brown. The sophomore from Canada had four assists, four steals but also three turnovers in 29 minutes on the floor.
“He had his moments. It’s a big responsibility to be the quarterback, to be the point guard and to run the team.,” Fox said. “I think he did a lot of good things. He’ll look back at the film and see areas where he could be better. I thought he helped us defensively. It’s a good first game to learn from.”
Fox used 12 different players in the first half, in part to make sure his starters had enough juice for the final 20 minutes.
“We know because of the abbreviated offseason and the interruption in the fall, we’re trying to practice and play our way into shape,” Fox said, referring to the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re not quite in the condition we want to be or will be in.”
The Beavers, picked last in the Pac-12, showed off some new talent. Warith Alatishe, a 6-foot-7 transfer fro Nicholls State, had 16 points and eight rebounds, and JC transfer Rodrigue Andela grabbed 11 rebounds.
Senior guard Ethan Thompson had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Bears return to action Thursday at 3 p.m. against Northwest University, an NAIA program from Kirkland, Wash. The game will be shown on the Pac-12 Network right as you are sitting down for a plate of turkey.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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