Yes, Cal was missing three starters. Yes, Cal’s Charlie Moore had arguably the best game of any Cal freshman, ever. And yes, UCI once again failed to win a close game at the buzzer against a big opponent.
But we learned something from Wednesday’s overtime loss to #25 Cal. Our 2016-2017 Anteaters are a plucky bunch. Our young lads went on the road against a power conference team and showed impressive grit and composure beyond their years. Jaron showed that a former walk-on could become borderline unstoppable for certain stretches against school that likely gave him nary a sniff out of high school.
Credit should also be given to Brandon Smith, whose 39 minutes on the floor showed how valuable he is to this team’s defense. Max Hazzard found his shooting stroke, and Ioannis defied opposing fans who lazily dismissed him as a 7-foot oaf. In a curious development, Evan Leonard received 30 minutes of playing time, while Worku and Hazzard combined for 30 minutes. Could be a sign that Turner is starting to split the freshman guards into more traditionally defined roles of point and shooting guard.
Up next is another former conference foe in UOP.
The Tigers visit the Bren with former NBA star Damon Stoudamire at the helm. After being destroyed by a high-powered UCLA squad to open the season, Pacific took down Green Bay pretty handily by out-rebounding the Phoenix.
Look out for Pacific’s 7’0 center Sami Eleraky, who should be an interesting matchup with Ioannis. Senior guards TJ Wallace and David Taylor provide scoring clout.
Let’s hope Luke is back for this one!