I admit it, I was going into the Cal game with very low expectations. I wanted a win, I always want a win but I would take some solice in a reasonable effort. I got that but that was all I got. With Oregon State's win over Cal the previous Thursday, I thought we were going to get destroyed. We hung in there and even though we didn't get the win, there were some positives to build on.
Ernie started the game with a unique lineup: Odia, Catron, Longmire, Porter and Brown. No one over 6'6", no Crittle or Dunigan. Amazingly enough, it worked pretty well. There was more energy in the team to start the game than I had seen all season. When Dunigan and Crittle did come in, they generally came in as a tandem, creating a "big" look. I liked the contrast and it seemed like the team handled it better.
The fast guys could play fast, the slow guys played slow, and each group was having some success in those elements of the game. We still had some bad turnovers, we still had some bonehead plays, but for the first time all season, those bad plays felt few and far between. They were spread out amongst the game and didn't come in bunches. The only times where the team seemed out of sync from a motion standpoint was when the fast team tried to play slow or the slow team started to play fast. Invariably you would see a turnover come out of it.
Even in the loss, the team showed improvement. Better yet, I think Ernie showed that he does have a grasp on the team and by changing his rotations up this game, he found some formulas that worked well, perhaps well enough to stick with for awhile. TP looked like the old TP in spurts...sometimes good, sometimes bad. He was nailing some good shots but was also dribbling for 30+ seconds of the shot clock. Honestly, I was almost happy to see it. It felt like weeks since I had even seen TP involved in a game, let alone actually hogging the ball. Catron did a great job under the basket, working hard. The entire team played excellent defense in parts, particularly when Cal was running out-of-bounds plays. Oregon got several steals off the inbound pass by forcing bad passes.
Are we still bad? Yep, we are still bad and I'm not sure we are going to win any games. You can't count the Beavs as gimmie games anymore and I don't think we are going to win in Corvallis next week. What I do like is the effort that is being shown and that the game seems to finally be slowing down for the freshmen on the team. We are going to continue to give up easy buckets, miss layups and have an awful field-goal percentage but you can recognize that the team knows the issues and the entire team (Ernie included) is working on them.
We may not win any games this year, but I certainly feel better in this loss than I have in all of our games (wins included) this year. For those that didn't see the game, I recommend watching a replay. You may see some hope in it.