In the first half of Wednesday’s basketball game, the Bears led the Sun Devils by as many as 14 points. But then Cal turned around and lost the game by that same amount: 80-66.
Strange things were happening in Berkeley in the first half. The Bears started off with one of the best halves of basketball they’ve played this season — doing so without injured guard Paris Austin (sprained ankle), who is perhaps the team’s most important player. Cal successfully packed the paint, and the Sun Devils looked almost confused by the zone the Bears were running.
But as the game wore on, the Sun Devils started to look more and more like a team that has been ranked as high as No. 17 in the country this year.
While Arizona State started to find its footing in the second half, the Bears just couldn’t get much of anything working. Cal went 10 minutes and 30 seconds without a single field goal and was outscored 23-7 in that drought. The Bears ended up shooting just 7-of-22 in the half.
Head coach Wyking Jones said he felt this was a game Cal should have won, calling it a “very difficult, disappointing loss.”
He said he could tell a lot about the game from one play, when an errant Cal ball was thrown over the top into the backcourt, and Arizona State’s Kimani Lawrence sprinted back to dive on the ball and call timeout.
“That’s how the game went,” Jones said. “We knew that they were going to be a tough, physical team, and they didn’t look like it in the first half, not until the end of the first half. And then, in the second half, they showed us that they’re more physical and played tougher than we did tonight.”
Matt Bradley, who had a career-high 19 points on Wednesday — his third-straight game in double digit scoring — said that, in the second half, Arizona State spread the Bears out, got the bigs working down low, and started playing more aggressively.
“I think first half, we played both ends really well,” Bradley said. “Second half, we went on a drought for a little bit … and once we started scoring, they were scoring as well. And they got into the double-bonus, and it kind of hurt us.”
One such player who really started scoring for the Sun Devils was point guard Remy Martin, who started the game on the bench bu found his rhythm later in the game. Against the Bears, Martin had a career-high (and game-high) 24 points. He was particularly dangerous from 3-point range, making all three of his attempts in the second half.
And when Martin started picking things up, the Bears just didn’t have an answer.
“They started to get it going, and we just couldn’t seem to stop them,” said guard Darius McNeill, who had 16 points Wednesday.
Both McNeill and Bradley said they’re looking for the team’s true point guard, Austin, to rejoin the team, after the junior sprained his ankle Friday ahead of the team’s loss to UCLA. Against Arizona State, Austin’s absence was plainly felt on the court.
“We need our point guard back,” Jones said.
The team does expect Austin to be back on the court come Saturday when the Bears take on Arizona.
This article originally appeared here.