No matter how you slice it or frame it, Cal’s 67-62 loss to Harvard on Saturday amounts to a bad defeat for the Golden Bears.
Certainly the Crimson has elevated its program under Tommy Amaker, but Harvard is not the team it was last year, when it went 26-6 and won the Ivy League title. Harvard lost four starters from that team, and entered Saturday’s game with a 6-4 record, including a loss to Vermont.
And Cal was playing at home, where it is expected to beat teams of Harvard’s caliber.
Plus, the Bears failed to make the plays in the closing seconds when the game was on the line.
Cal took a 62-61 lead with 1:50 remaining when David Kravish scored a bucket. But that turned out to be the Bears’ final points.
After Wesley Saunders hit two free throws with 1:13 to go to put the Crimson back up by a point, Cal’s Justin Cobbs was called for an offensive foul with 56 seconds left when he pushed off to get open to receive a pass.
The Bears then forced Siyani Chambers to take a tough three-point shot that he missed, but Cal was unable to get the defensive rebound with 20 seconds left. When Harvard got the offensive rebound, Cal had to commit three quick fouls to get the Crimson into a foul-shooting situation. After Chambers made two free throws with 17 seconds left to make it a three-point game, Cobbs committed another turnover when he tried to drive the lane for a quick two-pointer.
Harvard’s Laurent Rivard made two foul shots with nine seconds left to wrap it up and drop Cal’s record to 8-4 in its final game before the start of conference play.
The Bears’ 6-0 start seems like a long time ago now, and they open Pac-12 play on Thursday on the road against a UCLA team that seems to be gaining some traction, as evidenced by the Bruins’ victory over No. 7 Missouri on Friday.
Only Wisconsin held Cal to a lower point total than it had against Harvard, and this one was at home.
Allen Crabbe had a solid game with 27 points, while Cobbs had 15 points, although he also had five turnovers.
But freshman Tyrone Wallace has struggled since he became a starter three games ago. After going 1-for-7 and scoring five points in the blowout victory over Prairie View A&M last Saturday, Wallace was 0-for-4 and went scoreless against the Crimson in 34 minutes of action. He did have seven rebounds and four assists, but the Golden Bears need him to score some points to support Cobbs and Crabbe. Wallace was not on the court in the final minute, although you would assume Wallace will remain in the starting lineup.
Cal missed all six of its three-point shots for the game, and that didn’t help the Bears’ cause either.
Harvard plays at St. Mary’s on Monday, and it will be interesting to see how the Crimson fares in that game, which may indicate how tolerable Cal’s loss on Saturday was.