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WBB Report: Shooting woes a cause for concern?

After shooting 3-30 from behind the arc against Idaho, it's time to look at Cal's shooting.

This picture has nothing to do with bad shooting, but it looks cool so I went with it.
This picture has nothing to do with bad shooting, but it looks cool so I went with it.
Lance Iversen/USA TODAY Sports

As of this moment, our Golden Bears have a record of 5-2, with an expected loss to Duke and an unexpected loss on the road to George Washington. But Cal's wins have occasionally been a bit too close for comfort, and some fans have been frustrated with a particular aspect of Cal's play so far this year: shooting. More specifically, three point shooting.

Cal is shooting a very poor 38.6% from the field. The Bears aren't so awful on 2 point shots (44.8%) but they've been one of the worst teams in the nation from behind the arc at 22.0%. And if you remove the incredibly efficient Reshanda Gray (68.8%) from the fold, things look even bleaker. Simply put, after Reshanda Gray, nobody is shooting well right now.

The good news is that Cal has managed to win five games despite such poor shooting performances. Cal wasn't an amazing shooting team last year, but they won games by rebounding such a high percentage of their own misses. And while missing Gennifer Brandon (and Talia Caldwell) means that Cal isn't quite as dominating on the offensive glass, the Bears are still very good on the glass. The Bears are also taking care of the ball and playing better defense than you might expect for a team with three freshmen playing major minutes. You have to be doing lots of other things right to overcome poor shooting.

Still, if Cal doesn't improve their shooting, there's a ceiling on how much this team can achieve. So, is poor shooting at this level likely to continue? No, no it isn't. Here's one quick example:


3 point %


Afure Jemerigbe, 2012-13




Afure Jemerigbe, 2013-14




Brittany Boyd, 2012-13




Brittany Boyd, 2013-14




Mikayla Lyles, 2012-13




Mikayla Lyles, 2013-14




It's entirely possible (likely, really) that Afure Jemerigbe and Brittany Boyd will never be efficient scorers. It's also reasonable to imagine that, without last year's seniors, these two players are forced to take more shots and are getting more attention from opposing defenses. And after last year, perhaps opposing defenses have realized the type of threat Mikayla Lyles poses from behind the arc.

Still, those reasonable explanations don't explain such a precipitous decline in shooting for three veteran players with a wide body of evidence indicating their general level of talent and production. Honestly, the only logical conclusion is that all three players are simultaneously suffering from random shooting slumps/variation. The type of variation you expect every player to have throughout the course of a season.

Really, the biggest issue is Cal's awful three point shooting. Oddly enough, freshmen Mercedes Jefflo (31.2) and Hind Ben Abdelkader (28.6) have had comparatively decent showings from behind the arc. It's the veterans who have struggled. But there is simply no way that Cal will continue to shoot 22% from behind the arc. For all the criticism Cal received for iffy shooting last year, the Bears shot 30.2%, a completely average number nationally. Granted, when you have a top 25 team you expect better than average numbers, but Cal wasn't trying to win games by shooting the lights out from deep.

Cal only needs to hit enough shots from deep to keep a defense honest, and frankly, they have the personnel to do that. We all watched Afure Jemerigbe and Mikayla Lyles shoot perfectly fine from deep last year. There's a strong body of evidence that Mercedes Jefflo and Hind Ben Abdelkader will be able to do the same.

The only real issue I might have is that the team appears to be settling for too many three point shots. After seven games, 31.1% of Cal's field goal attempts have been threes. That's not a huge number, but it's probably a bit more than you'd prefer when your strength is inside and the shots aren't falling.

Still, Cal faces a conundrum. At the moment, Reshanda Gray is the only known quantity in the post, and because of injuries and absences, Cal has been forced to play a more guard oriented lineup than one might expect. And that has certainly played a role in the amount of threes Cal has attempted. Perhaps the healthy return of Justine Hartman or the eventual availability of Kyra Dunn will change how the Bears decide to run their offense.

It's gambler's fallacy to say that Cal is ‘due' for a hot streak from behind the arc. But it's just as fallacious to suggest that Cal has a fatal flaw that will cost them heavily throughout the year. The Bears are still in the process of integrating three freshmen into major roles, and might be doing the same with a transfer player shortly. Look for the offense to become more efficient as conference play approaches.