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Cal Again Stumbles in Closing Minutes to Let a Possible Road Win Slip Away

Bears lose to Washington State despite late arrival by Joel Brown. Cal falls to 0-6 away from home

Cal's 65-57 loss to Washington State on Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash., had five distinctive features.

---1. Cal lost its fourth straight game, fell to 9-9 overall and 2-5 in the Pac-12, and is now 0-6 in games played away from home this season and 3-43 in its last 46 road games. 

---2.Ultimately it was the same old story for Cal: The Bears were right in the game midway through the second half, but were unable to produce the defensive stops and offensive execution needed in the closing minutes.

"I think it's the third game in a row on the road where we had the lead at the half and we talked about trying to close it and finish it, and we just didn't defensive rebound," Cal coach Mark Fox said. "We forced some misses, we gave up a rebound on free throw that cost us three.

"We just didn't do the right things to close the game in the second half."

Cal was within two points with 3:55 left, but WSU (10-7, 3-3 Pac-12) scored six straight points at that point, with the key sequence coming at the 2:52 mark. Michael Flowers, WSU's leading scorer this season, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw situation, but the Cougars got the offensive rebound and Flowers made a 3-pointer off of it to make it a five-point game.

---3. Cal starting point guard Joel Brown showed up at the arena late in the first halftime after flying up from the Bay Area. He had missed Wednesday's game because of illness, presumably COVID, and had been cleared Saturday morning before flying up.  But he could not save the day. He played just one minute early in the second half, with little impact.

"It's just one roll of the dice, and it's a gamble," Cal coach Mark Fox said of inserting Brown into the game with 17:01 left in the second half. "He hasn't been with our team for seven days. He wasn't in any meetings. He wasn't doing walk-throughs. He hasn't shot a ball. He's been locked in his apartment.

"And so you just take a roll of the dice and say, 'Is it going to be like he can just step in here and we keep rolling?' And you can tell he wasn't ready and out of synch and understandably so."

---4. For the second game in a row, a disputed call that was amended after a video review turned out to be the turning point in a Cal loss.

In Wednesday's loss to Washington, there was no call initially when Kuany Kuany came down with a rebound and hit a Washington player with his elbow.  But after several seconds, play was stopped, and a video review ended with a Flagrant I foul call.  Cal lost possession, and the Huskies turned it into a four-point possession for them and took control at that point.

On Saturday, with 19:09 left in the second half and Cal trailing by one point, Andre Kelly tipped in a loose ball off a deflection after it hit the rim just before the shot clock expired. The bucket  would have put Cal ahead by a point, and he was fouled on the play as well.  The bucket was initially counted, but after a few seconds, the refs decided to review the play on video and determined that since the ball was deflected before it hit the basket, it was a shot-clock violation.

So instead of being ahead by a point with a chance to expand the lead to two, Cal still trailed. Cal stayed close and even had a lead later, but it was a pivotal play.

Fox gave a long sigh before addressing that sequence.

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"If a ball gets shot and is deflected and goes in the basket it counts," Fox said. "So the ball [in this case] was shot and deflected and it hit the rim. But they ruled a shot-clock violation, because the ball was deflected.

"If they administered the rule correctly, it's a terrible rule, because you can't count it in one case and no reset the shot clock on the other, because it cost us a basket and a free throw, which, at the time, was a critical play.

"We're just going to have to overcome all that."

---5. The Cougars had an unexpected offensive star.

Washington State's Andrej Jakimovski, who averaged 5.1 points coming into the game, came off the bench to hit 4-of-7 shots from 3-point range and finish with a season-high 16 points.

The Cougars' top three scorers -- Michael Flowers, Tyrell Roberts and Noah Williams -- were a combined 6-for-24 from the field and totaled of 24 points, well below their average.

Jordan Shepherd had 17 points, and Andre Kelly had 12 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bear failed to reach 60 points for the third straight game.

Cal had only eight turnovers, a big improvement over the 17 the Bears had against Washington, but Washington State turned the ball over only six times.


Cover photo of Tyrell Roberts driving on Jarred Hyder is by James Snook, USA TODAY Sports


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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