California dropped back-to-back games against Top 10 foes and now the Golden Bears look to get back in the victory column Wednesday night when they face Washington in Seattle.
The Huskies (6-7, 1-2 Pac-12) have dropped five of their last seven games, most recently losing 78-64 Sunday at Colorado.
The Golden Bears (9-7, 2-3) lost 77-63 to then-No. 7 Southern California last Thursday and two days later stayed close at then-No. 5 UCLA before falling 60-52.
“There’s no shame in laying it out there against the best teams and falling short,” Cal coach Mark Fox said after the loss to UCLA. “It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. We failed today, but these kids competed in a way that I was really pleased with.”
Andre Kelly scored 22 points on 11 of 14 shooting to raise his team-best average to 15 points. Kelly has four 20-point efforts this season.
Jordan Shepherd is averaging 14.3 points and Grant Anticevich 11.9 points and a team-leading 7.6 rebounds.
Shepherd said he was encouraged by the games against two programs that made deep NCAA Tournament runs last season.
“I learned we’re capable of hanging with anybody,” he said. “These two teams, they’re ranked for a reason, and we’re hanging around with both of them.”
Cal is 0-4 against ranked teams this season, but 9-3 against the rest of its schedule. Following this trip to the Washington schools (the Bears are at WSU on Saturday), they face three Top 10 teams in succession – at home against No. 6 Arizona, then at No. 3 UCLA and No. 5 USC.
“When we’re right, doing everything we’re supposed to do, we can compete,” Shepherd said, “and we can win these.”
As for Washington, Cole Bajema has been a sudden force by making 11 of 15 3-point attempts over the past two games.
Bajema hadn’t scored in double digits all season until scoring 15 points in a 74-68 road win over Utah last Thursday. He followed up in a career-best 18-point effort against Colorado.
“It’s just feeling more and more comfortable with the minutes that he plays,” Huskies coach Mike Hopkins said. “You make one, you feel confident. We always knew Cole could shoot the basketball and the coaches kept working with him. He went out and earned his minutes and now he’s earning more.”
Preceding the splurge, Bajema was averaging 2.4 points a game.
Terrell Brown Jr. continues to lead the Pac-12 in scoring, with 20.7 points a game, but he was 4-for-16 against Colorado, scoring just 12 points in his poorest shooting performances of the season.
Emmitt Matthews Jr. is Washington’s only other player scoring in double figures at 11.5.
The Huskies’ biggest problem is that in their three Pac-12 games, they have been outrebounded by an average of 45-28.
–Field Level Media