UCLA, USC on Deck for Bears

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When Senque Carey's last-ditch heave from behind the arc sank through the net Saturday, the game wasn't all that was lost.

One look at the Cal men's basketball team shuffling off Newell Court at Haas Pavilion could tell you that the players themselves were lost.

And as Ben Braun pointed out, Los Angeles isn't the ideal place to search for an identity.

"Going down to USC and UCLA this week, it's not an easy place to find yourself," said the Bears coach of his team's upcoming trip south to take on the Southern California schools. "It's not going to get any easier."

Cal (11-8, 2-5 in the Pac-10) suffered a severe case of personality disorder last week. Thursday it annihilated Washington State, 80-46, in the worst beating the Bears have administered this season. But Saturday Cal turned in one of its worst efforts of the season, folding in the second half to succumb to Washington, 54-52, on Carey's shot.

"We've got to be mentally tougher," Braun said. "We lost our mental edge in Saturday's game. I thought we rushed some shots, (and) we've got to secure the ball. We can't give teams in this league second chances."

But Braun was quick to point out that the team probably learned more from the sloppy loss than the alternative.

"Maybe (losing) magnifies the things we need to do," Braun said. "If we win the game, maybe the players don't think the free throws they missed are that important. I know now every one of our players are thinking about a free throw they could have made or one of the loose balls they could have gotten. It's a shame you need to lose to do that."

To make matters worse, the team will need to address these problems on the road, where the Bears have only ventured three times this season. Given its lack of road experience, garnering a win in Los Angeles would take Cal's best possible effort.

"If the defense is consistent, you can be in games on the road," Braun said. "(But) there's no substitute for experience, having been in the league and played those games (before)."

The coach added that hometown distractions - four players on the roster hail from Southern California - could affect the team's concentration.

"I understand why football players stay in the hotel (the night before road games)," Braun said. "A lot of our team is from there, and those are factors that affect younger teams."

Hot and Cold

As the Bears near the midway point in their Pac-10 season, even their star player has some problems to confront.

Junior forward Sean Lampley has put forth a number of strong second-half efforts this season, but 40-minute consistency has eluded him.

"It's his biggest challenge," Braun said. "He needs to play as good a first half as second."

Lampley is widely known as an emotional player, and he often gives his coach an indication of whether he's on his game.

"I watch his interaction with his teammates," Braun said. "If he's leading and confident, it's a good sign."


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