Cal basketball notebook: Jaylen Brown shoulders blame

Jaylen Brown called it “a humbling moment, truly.”

The Cal forward and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year took the heat for the Bears’ 77-66 first-round NCAA tournament loss to Hawaii on Friday.

“A lot of the blame is on me,” he said.

Certainly Brown didn’t skirt the issue after shooting 1 for 6 and scoring a season-low four points to go with seven turnovers. He fouled out with 6:22 left.

Rated as one of the nation’s elite recruits last spring, Brown said he chose Cal with a vision of doing something really big his freshman season.

“I expected us to win it all. That was my goal,” he said. “I didn’t do what it takes to help my team get over the hump.”

Instead, the Atlanta native, who this week was voted Freshman All-American by the U.S. Basketball Writers, skidded to the finish line of what is expected to be his lone college season. Brown shot just 10 for 48 and averaged just 8.2 points the final five games.

“I’ve just got to get better. Point-blank, period. Got to get better,” he said, adding that he hasn’t given any thought yet to whether he will enter the NBA draft.

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Cal basketball: How much change is coming for Bears after sudden March Madness exit?

No one in the Cal locker room was saying so, but Friday felt like the end of an era.

A very short era.

Where the Bears go from here is anyone’s guess after a disappointing and sudden end to their season with a 77-66 loss to underdog Hawaii in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at the Spokane Arena.

Do freshman Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb exit for the NBA draft?

Neither was ready to address the topic after the game, but both are projected as lottery picks and few anticipate they will remain at Berkeley.

Does second-year coach Cuonzo Martin return?

Amid an expanding campus inquiry into his response to a scandal that led to assistant coach Yann Hufnagel’s firing Monday for sexual harassment of a female reporter, no one can predict the next chapter of his career.

Even, perhaps, Martin, who sounded largely unrattled by everything that transpired all week.

“My situation will be what I determine it will be, so I am fine,” he said. “If you’re talking about Ivan and Jaylen, there’s plenty of time to talk about whatever they decide to do.”

The avalanche of bad news for Cal continued Friday, two days after senior point guard Tyrone Wallace broke his hand in practice, ending his college career.

Jabari Bird, the Bears’ other starting guard, was unable to play because of back spasms that first developed during a light Thursday practice, then worsened before the game.

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Cal basketball: A shocking and sudden end to Bears’ season — a 77-66 loss to Hawaii

A Cal basketball season that began with almost limitless optimism crashed to a sudden and shocking end Friday after a 77-66 defeat to Hawaii in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Friday.

Almost certainly the game marked the end of the brief college careers of freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, a pair of top-10 national recruits, whose arrival last spring sent expectations for the program soaring.

Also cloudy is the future of second-year coach Cuonzo Martin, whose team was 14th in the AP preseason poll and arrived in Spokane ranked No. 23 nationally and seeded fourth in the NCAA’s South Region.

The entire week was a nightmare for the Bears, and there was more bad news just prior to tipoff when starting guard Jabari Bird went to the locker room with back spasms. One of the team’s hottest players in recent weeks, the junior from Salesian High never played in Cal’s first NCAA game since 2013.

The Bears (23-11) already were at a manpower deficit because starting point guard Tyrone Wallace broke his hand in practice on Wednesday and did not make the trip. With Bird also out, Cal’s entire starting backcourt was shelved.

But Cal had bigger problems still leading into the game.

Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday after a long campus investigation which showed he sexually harassed a female reporter. Questions followed about whether Martin reported the issue promptly, with the university announcing it would conduct a broader review of the entire process.

By game time, Cal simply did not have enough answers for Hawaii (28-5), underdog champs of the Big West Conference. Quincy Smith and Roderick Bobbitt, a pair of East Bay natives, led the Warriors to their first-ever NCAA victory by scoring 19 and 17 points, respectively.

Cal junior Jordan Mathews, starting in Bird’s place, played aggressively and scored 23 points. Rabb, the former Bishop O’Dowd High star who is projected as an NBA lottery pick, had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Sam Singer, who replaced Wallace at the point, scored a season-high 12 points before fouling out in the final minute.

Brown’s afternoon was a disaster. He scored just four points on 1-for-6 shooting and had seven turnovers before fouling out wth 6:22 left. Considered a potential top-5 pick in the NBA draft, the 6-foot-7 forward from Atlanta finished the season by making just 10 of 48 shots over the Bears’ final five games.

Brown sat expressionless on the bench as the game’s final minutes ticked away.

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Cal basketball: How Bears, Rainbow Warriors compare

How Cal and Hawaii match up in their NCAA tournament opening-round game on Friday:

TIPOFF: Friday, 11 a.m. at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Washington.


RECORDS: No. 4 seed Cal is 23-10 overall, 12-6/tied for third in Pac-12; No. 13 Hawaii is 27-5, 13-3/tied 1st in Big West.

WHAT’S NEXT: Winner faces the winner of No. 5 seed Maryland vs. No. 12 South Dakota State on Sunday, tba.

VS. THE 2016 NCAA FIELD: Cal 7-7. Hawaii 1-2.

ALL-TIME NCAA RECORD: Cal, playing in its 19th NCAA tournament, is 20-18, including 12-6 in the first round. Hawaii, playing in its 5th NCAAs, is 0-4 with an average margin of defeat of 15.8 points.

CAL VS. HAWAII: Cal leads 11-1. The Bears won 73-57 at Berkeley in the 1989 NIT in their only postseason meeting. Hawaii’s only victory in the series came during the 1971-72 season.

TOP PLAYERS: Cal – SF Jaylen Brown (6-7 freshman) 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds; SG Jordan Mathews (6-3 junior) 13.2 points, .417 3-point; PF Ivan Rabb (6-11 freshman) 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds. Hawaii — PF Stefan Jankovic (6-11 junior) 15.7 points, 6.6 rebounds; SG Aaron Valdes 6-5 junior) 14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds; PG Roderick Bobbitt (6-3 senior) 13.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists.

CAL NOTES: Junior Sam Singer will start at PG for senior Tyrone Wallace, who broke his right hand in practice Wednesday and is out for the NCAA tournament. Singer averaged 5.0 assists in his eight starts. . . The Bears are ranked No. 23 in both the AP and coaches top-25 polls. . . . Cal leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (67.0 points per game allowed), field-goal percentage defense (39.3) and fewest 3-pointers allowed per game (5.5). . . . Cal, which completed an 18-0 home schedule, is 5-10 in neutral and road games. . . . Jaylen Brown was named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Freshman All-America team.

HAWAII NOTES: Hawaii is 18-102 all-time vs. nationally ranked opponents. . . . Former Saint Mary’s assistant Eran Ganot, with 27 wins, passed legends Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson for most victories by a Big West coach in his rookie season. . . . The Rainbow Warriors have tied the school for wins in a season set in 2001-02. . . . Castro Valley High grad Roderick Bobbitt is trying to become the first player to lead the Big West in assists and steals two years in a row.


Cal basketball: Bears ready to leave behind off-court issues, take on Hawaii in NCAA tournament

The mood of the Cal basketball team on the eve of its first NCAA game since 2013 was a reflection of the approach set Thursday by coach Cuonzo Martin.

After four days of controversy and the loss of starting point guard Tyrone Wallace to injury, the fourth-seeded Golden Bears (23-10) finally get down to the business of basketball when they face Hawaii (27-5) in a first-round South Regional matchup in the NCAA tournament.

The firing of assistant coach Yann Hufnagel because of a sexual harassment scandal and the sudden loss of leading scorer Wallace to a broken hand have shifted the headlines from on the court to off it.

Outwardly, Martin was cool and collected Thursday, sounding a business-as-usual tone in the wake of one of the most disturbing and unfortunate few days in recent Cal basketball history.

Martin fielded questions about the Hufnagel situation and potential fallout that could lead to the head coach’s office.

The second-year coach expressed disappointment for Wallace, who returned to school this season so that he could experience the NCAAs again. But he broke his right hand during practice on Wednesday before the team departed for Spokane and remained behind in Berkeley.

“We talk about how things happen in life, whether it’s basketball, the classroom, family members,” Martin said of how he addressed the issues with his players. “It’s a bump in the road, you keep moving forward. We don’t spend a lot of time on it. We’re not consumed by it. We talk about it, deal with it. That’s life.”

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s in the past,” junior guard Jordan Mathews said of the week’s events. “We’ve got to focus on Hawaii.”

The players were coached on how to respond to reporters’ questions Thursday, and they all said pretty much the same thing that Mathews did — Hufnagel’s firing will not be a distraction when the Bears play Hawaii.

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Cal basketball: Bears expecting success despite loss of PG Tyrone Wallace

Cal junior Jordan Mathews said it’s up to everyone on the team to fill the void for injured point guard Tyrone Wallace when the Bears face Hawaii on Friday in their NCAA tournament opener.

“He averaged 15, 5 and 5,” Jordan said of Wallace’s contributions scoring, rebounding and assists. “So we’re going to have to pick up the slack in all those areas.”

Wallace, the team’s leading scorer and a 2015 first-team All-Pac-12 selection, broke his right hand in practice Wednesday before the team traveled to Spokane.

Wallace did not make the trip with his teammates, staying behind to get medical treatment.

“Tyrone just really wanted to make sure the hand is OK,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin explained. “That was the biggest reason Tyrone is at home.”

Wallace previously broke a different bone in the same hand on Jan. 17, and missed five games. The Bears went 3-2 over that stretch, including a win over Arizona.

Junior Sam Singer will replace Wallace in the starting lineup, as he did two months ago, with freshman small forward Jaylen Brown available to slide into the position as well. Seldom-used sophomore Brandon Chauca also plays point guard.

“Big-time confidence in Sam,” Mathews said. “We saw it earlier in the year when Tyrone broke his hand the first time. Sam took the reins and there was very little dropoff.”

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Cal basketball: Cuonzo Martin says scandal won’t be a distraction in NCAA opener

On the eve of his team’s opening game in the NCAA tournament, Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said the firing of assistant coach Yann Hufnagel will not be a distraction or obstacle for the Bears.

Martin took at least a half-dozen questions related to the scandal that broke Monday, and did his best to calmly deflect them while painting a picture of focus in his team’s locker room.

“We talk about how things happen in life, whether it’s basketball, the classroom, family members,” he said of how he addressed the issue with his players this week. “It’s a bump in the road, you keep moving forward.

“We don’t spend a lot of time on it. We’re not consumed by it. We talk about it, deal with it, that’s life.”

Hufnagel was fired following a campus investigation in which he acknowledged inappropriate dealings with a female reporter. The university has since said it will review the entire situation, including whether Martin promptly reported the news to the university after learning what happened.

“I’m not going to deal with that right now because we’re playing in the NCAA tournament. It’s a university issue right now,” he said during a podium interview. “Right now the biggest concern is our basketball team in the NCAA tournament.”

Asked if he’s concerned there could be fallout that could put his own job in jeopardy, Martin said it’s not his priority right now.

“I don’t worry about those things, to be totally honest with you,” he said. “My job with this basketball team is to win games, graduate young men and develop young men. Anything else is a waste of time.”

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Cal basketball: Tyrone Wallace injury confirmed as broken right hand — he’s out


Cal confirmed Thursday morning that senior point guard Tyrone Wallace broke his right hand and will miss the NCAA tournament.

A spokesman said it’s the same hand, but a different bone than he broke in January. Cal said the recovery time for this injury is 3 to 5 weeks.

The Bears open NCAA play Friday morning against Hawaii. Coach Cuonzo Martin said junior Sam Singer will start at point guard.

Cal was 3-2, including a win over Arizona, during the five games Wallace missed the first time he broke his hand.

Wallace is the Bears’ leading scorer at 15.3 points per game and also contributes 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. A first-team all-Pac-12 selection as a junior, he was coming off a season-high 26-point performance in Cal’s overtime loss to Utah in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals.

A 6-foot-6 senior from Bakersfield, Wallace considered entering the NBA draft after his junior season in 2015, but returned in order to complete his degree and to play in the NCAA with a young, talented team that includes Brown and Ivan Rabb.

The news is the latest in a tumultuous week for the program. Assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday for sexual harassment of a female report, and Martin is part of a campus review to determine whether his response to the Hufnagel situation was prompt and appropriate.


Cal basketball: Jabari Bird’s late-season surge coincides with Bears’ improvement

A funny thing happened this season when Jabari Bird finally hit his stride. So did the Cal basketball team.

The Bears open NCAA tournament play Friday against Hawaii, but they wouldn’t own their best-ever No. 4 seeding without winning nine of their past 11 games.

And they wouldn’t have done that except that Bird found his rhythm midway through his third college season.

“A long journey,” said Bird, who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 54.5 percent from the 3-point arc the past 11 games “After three long years, waiting and waiting and waiting, it’s a great time to be a Bear right now.

“I’m just happy, period. We won some ballgames down the stretch of the season. I’ve been playing a lot better. For the two to go hand in hand, is definitely big. Let’s keep it going.”

No one is happier than Carl Bird, a two-year starter at Cal who led the team in scoring as a senior in 1976, but never played in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m a proud father,” Carl said. “I wanted to see him get to March Madness. I hope they go all the way. They can make some history. Why not us, man?”

Bird was a McDonald’s All-American at Salesian High in Richmond, one of the nation’s elite prospects. But the 6-foot-6 guard battled injuries and inconsistency his first two seasons at Cal and showed only glimpses of his significant potential.

Now he has become the Bears’ clutch shot-maker. He beat Saint Mary’s early in the season by hitting a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. He delivered three second-half 3-pointers in a Pac-12 tournament win over Oregon State. And he twice scored go-ahead baskets in the final minute overtime the next night against Utah in a last-second defeat.

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Cal basketball: Some instructive NCAA tournament history for the sky-is-falling crowd

If senior point guard Tyrone Wallace’s injured hand prevents him from playing Friday when Cal opens the NCAA tournament against Hawaii, it won’t be the first time the Bears tackled the event without a critical player lost late in the season.

It all worked out OK last time.

Back in 1997, the Bears lost Ed Gray — the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 24.8 points per game — to a broken foot in a Feb. 22 game at Washington State in which he scored a school-record 48 points.

Cal had two weeks — not just two days, as is the case here — to adjust before the NCAAs began.

But they did adapt to the loss, beating Princeton and Villanova to advance to the Sweet 16. Of course, that Cal team had a tight end/power forward named Tony Gonzalez, whose physical play — and 23 points — terrorized Villanova star freshman Tim Thomas.

These Bears will have to make due with freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, among others.