The non-conference portion of Cal's basketball scheduled ended Sunday with a 71-63 loss to Harvard in front of 4,317 fans at Haas Pavilion.
Harvard is a legitimate opponent, experienced and favored to win the Ivy League. But it's not Arizona or Oregon or Washington or Colorado or Utah - teams Cal soon must face in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Bears (6-7) have lost seven of their past nine games after a 4-0 start under first-year coach Mark Fox. And they appear nowhere close to being ready for the rigors of conference play, beginning Thursday at Stanford.
“We’re not that far away," Fox said afterward, "but we’re a long way away from the level of consistency that is needed.”
Cal lost for just the second time at home, but they will take an 0-5 record outside Haas to Stanford, which is 11-2 after falling Sunday to No. 5 Kansas.
“It was a seven-point game with 10 seconds to go," Fox said. "You look back at some of the errors, a missed front end of a one-and-one, a couple more free throws here, one less turnover . . . and maybe with 10 seconds to go we’re up one."
The flip side is that Cal has issues all over the map. Fox has known this from the start, and to his credit he acknowledges there is a long road ahead to becoming competitive at the level he wants.
Against Harvard, Cal shot 35 percent from the field, made just 4 of 15 shots from the 3-point arc, gave up 11 points off turnovers in just the first half, and allowed the Crimson to shoot 51 percent, including 57 percent in the first half.
Harvard (9-4) blocked a season-high 11 of Cal's shots, and the Bears could not carve into a 34-24 halftime deficit because they made just 4 of their first 19 shots after intermission.
Where to start?
“There’s a lot to address," Fox said." I knew that on Day 1. What we’ve really tried to do is make an investment in the right things and demand that they play the game the right way. But also that they practice and work at the game the right way.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress there. There’s a lot of instinctive plays on the defensive end that we do not make, and we probably won't make until we go through it and get some experience."
Matt Bradley led the Bears with 15 points, but he shot 4-for-14, including 0-for-6 on threes. Cal's leading scorer on the season, Bradley is shooting just 39 percent the past five games.
Kareem South scored 13 points for the Bears.
Cal finished with just six assists, the seventh time in 13 games the Bears have totaled fewer than 10 in a game, indicative of a team with very little offensive flow.
Fox said the work continues, and part of that involves keeping his players upbeat in the face of discouraging outcomes.
“Every day there’s a goal to get better. That’s not going to change. And every day there’ll be a goal to win the next game, and that’s not going to change," he said. "I told the team, `Hey, we knew we were going to face some adversity. It can’t rock your spirit and it doesn’t change mine one bit.’ We’ll show up battle ready and keep fighting forward.
“Obviously, keeping these kids positive and focused on what we’ve signed up for is going to be important. For the most part they’ve come back to work pretty consistently.”
Senior forward Chris Lewis made all seven of his shots from the field and was 5-for-5 at the foul line to lead the Crimson with 19 points. The school's career leader in blocked shots, Lewis had four of Harvard's swats.
The Crimson played without leading scorer and All-Ivy guard Bryce Aiken, who scored 44 points in a game last season. He missed his second straight game with a left foot injury.