BERKELEY — Cal coach Mark Madsen’s energy never wavered throughout Cal’s rollercoaster of a win on Wednesday night.

Down 20 in the first half, the first-year coach was often the first one to greet his players out of a timeout and the last one clapping out of the huddle.

When forward Jaylon Tyson drove in for a thunderous one-handed dunk to give the Bears their first lead at 63-62, the 6-foot-9 former Los Angeles Laker pumped his fist as if he was giving Colorado a right hook to the liver.

Though Tyson’s 30-point game was his best performance of the season and point guard Jalen Cone’s 17-point game in place of starting point guard Devin Askew was huge, it was Madsen’s energy that gave the Bears the juice necessary to win.

“He has the ultimate confidence in us,” Cone said. “His confidence bleeds on to us and helped us make plays down like down the stretch. It just allows us to be our best selves while we’re out there on the court with just with his energy and his enthusiasm and his confidence in us.”

The Bears are currently 6-10 through 16 games of head coach Mark Madsen’s first season with Cal.

Since the 2015-16 team that Cal put together that featured Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown, second-round pick Ivan Rabb and head coach Cuonzo Martin, the Bears have fallen into irrelevancy in the college basketball world. Cal has posted just one winning record since 2016 and have had four season where they didn’t reach 10 wins.

Madsen’s hiring in 2023 was positively taken by many fans and alumni at Cal. The former Utah Valley head coach posted back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2021 and 2022 and was a former star at nearby Stanford in the late ’90s.

This season has been what most have expected. The success rate for college basketball coaches in their first year on the job isn’t high. Aside from the great John Wooden, one would be hard pressed to find a Division I coach who led their team to 20-plus wins in their first season.

But despite the up and down season this year, Madsen has led his team to solid wins through true grit.

“The way I would describe Mark Madsen is he’s an everyday guy,” Tyson said. “When we went on a couple game losing stretches, he was the same guy every single day. When we win these games, he’s the same person every single day. He’s gonna stay that way the rest of his life.”

The Bears started the game off surrendering a 10-0 run to Colorado. After Travis da Silva hit a 3-pointer to give the Buffaloes as 40-20 lead late in the second half, the energy in the building went mute. Colorado fans sitting behind the Buffaloes’ bench started to sing the school’s alma mater, mocking the sleeping giants on the way to intermission.

It looked like it was going to be a rough shooting night for Cal as it shot just 23.5% from the floor. The Bears surrendered 15 points to Colorado big man Eddie Lampkin Jr. who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

But something clicked for the Bears in the second half.

Down 19 with 17 minutes to go in the second half, the Bears went on an improbable 32-12 run that ended with Tyson’s dunk.

Colorado didn’t lay down though. Da Silva once again connected on a 3-pointer to give Colorado a 67-65 lead at the 4:40 mark of the second half.

But even in crunch time, it was Madsen’s voice and leadership that got Cal through the mud. The Bears closed the final 4:39 on a 17-11 run that included clutch shot making from Tyson and key free throw shooting from Cone.

“I think this win can prove to the guys that no matter what happens keep on working and keep on fighting because the tide can turn at any moment,” Madsen said about the win.”In the NBA, there are 30-point swings. The key is when you hit adversity, just keep working. Keep fighting. It’s not going to turn in every single situation, but it can turn in a lot of situations.”

The Bears head into their game at Oregon Saturday with a lot of confidence after beating UCLA who is No. 107 in Kenpom rankings and Colorado who is 33rd.

When asked if this is the signature win in the Mark Madsen era thus far, Madsen said, “I hope we have many more. We are going to have many more wins that are impressive that are over skilled opponents. This is the start.  There’s very few teams that go undefeated, and so I know we’re gonna hit a pothole or two. But I’ll tell you this, we are going to fight, fight, fight every step of the way.”

Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics

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