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Another Basketball Road Win in the Bank: Cal 63 - Nevada 56

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Cold shooting? No problem. Tyrone Wallace comes to the rescue with a monstrous second half.

The Golden Bears traveled to Reno on Sunday and executed four of head basketball writer Scott Chong's five keys to victory. (1) They defended Nevada's ball screens very well. Cal held Nevada to 33% shooting in the game, and forced them into a lot of contested shots. (2) They rebounded well, gathering in 70% of the Wolfpack's missed shots, a solid effort against a team whose strength is getting on the offensive glass. (3) They played with greater focus and intensity than in the two prior games -- communicating defensively, spacing the floor well, and getting after loose balls. (4) They took care of the ball. After 22 turnovers against Montana, they committed just three turnovers today, all in the first half.

Even missing Jabari Bird's shooting and Brandon Chauca's spark, the Bears must have cruised to an easy victory, right? Not so fast, my friend. Around here we always have to monitor our old friend the #Kod5 key to the game. Against superior competition, our overlord Kodiak likes to point out that we can always stay in the game if we shoot a high percentage. Well, apparently this is also important against inferior competition. Check out these numbers:

Under 16 1st Half

1-6

17%

Under 12 1st Half

2-11

18%

Under 8 1st Half

6-21

29%

Under 4 1st Half

6-23

26%

Halftime

7-28

25%




Under 16 2nd Half

9-35

26%

Under 12 2nd Half

13-45

29%

Under 8 2nd Half

15-49

31%

Under 4 2nd Half

20-56

36%

FINAL

24-61

39%

Those were the Bears' shooting percentages at each of the TV stoppages in this game. Sometimes analysis is complicated. It involves the interaction of schemes, matchups, momentum, adjustments. This game wasn't complicated. For most of the game, the Bears couldn't get buckets.

One might think that without guys like Bird and Chauca to space the floor, the poor shooting was due to our inability to get good looks. And one might be wrong in thinking that. Certainly the Cal offense is limited without all of its scoring options. This is especially true because the offense relies heavily on either shots near or going toward the basket, or on open 3p shots. But in this game, Bears executed their offense much better than they had in a few weeks, and despite not having any credible outside threat (including dismal 1-8 FG, 0-3 3p from Jordan Mathews) the Bears worked hard to successfully get good post looks and drives against an overmatched Nevada defense.

One problem. The ball wouldn't go in the basket.

At halftime David Kravish was 2-6 on a lot of excellent looks. Christian Behrens was 0-3. Sam Singer was 1-3. Kingsley Okoroh was 1-3. And early season team MVP Tyrone Wallace was a miserable 1-9, many of those shots on mid-lane floaters that he typically converts at a high rate. As a result, after playing one of the better executed halves since their return from New York, the Bears were down 30-24 going into the locker room.

Luckily, Clark Kent remained in the locker room, Superman came out for the second half, and he was ready to get buckets. Again, sometimes analysis is hard, and sometimes it's really, really simple. One guy put the Bears on his back and carried them to victory. Mr. Wallace entered the break with the aforementioned 1-9 shooting line -- he left Reno with an 11-20 line and 29 points. I'll save you the math: that's a 10-11 second half. I repeat, Superman shot 10-11 in the second half and scored 23 of the Bears 39 points. He also assisted on three other FGs, added a couple steals (one uncredited) that led to fast break layups, and blocked a shot for good measure. He made every kind of shot imaginable, going to the hole, on post-ups, on mid-range pull-ups, on late shot clock long jumpers, and from the three point line. Eventually, Nevada sent their whole team to guard him, opening up wide open layups for his teammates.

So that second half progression in the chart above, with our in-game shooting going from 25% to 39%? That was all Tyrone Wallace. He did anything and everything that was needed to win. There are other things to say about this game, and I suppose I will in the notes below, but I don't want to overcomplicate the clear and obvious story in this one. This was Tyrone Wallace's game. Because of him, Cal returns from Reno with a 63-56 win, to improve to 7-1. He's becoming a special player, and I am wondering how good he can become in the next season and a half.

Miscellaneous

  • With :53 left, the Bears up 59-56, and the ball in Wallace's hands (5-9 FTs on the game, including a missed front end, and 55% on the season), the Wolfpack chose to do...nothing. They let the Bears play out the whole shot clock. It was a magnificently horrible decision, and when the sequence was over there were only :21 seconds left, the Bears were up five, and the game was over. Thank you, David Carter.
  • Possessions were in the low 60s, so Nevada easily won the tempo battle. This is a significant, ongoing problem. Cuonzo mentioned in the postgame that they had not worked on transition in the last several weeks, but they probably need to. I agree.
  • The Bears played one possession in a 2-3 zone in the second half. It resulted in an open look, two offensive rebounds, and eventually a Nevada layup. And that was the last of that.

  • David Kravish has to play better. I write that with much love and respect. 11 points on 5-12 FG with 6 boards and a block is actually a slightly better line than the reality, improved by a couple easy ones late in the game when all 12 Nevada players were chasing after Wallace. And that's not a very good line against this kind of team, in a close game. He's a stud. He got really good position down low. He was D-ing up guys who can't hold his jock. And yet he was tentative on defense and flat out didn't make plays on offense. I continue to hope for a big breakout game from him.

  • Dwight Tarwater is hearing the cold, cruel song of regression. After 1-5 FG, 0-3 3p (with most of the misses on open looks), he's down to 43% FG, 35% 3p on the season. I hope he can keep it there. That would still represent an improvement over his historical performance, and those numbers would still be quite useful this season.

  • Sam Singer played his best game in weeks. The 5 pt, 4 reb, 3 ast line is pedestrian, but he gave Cal 37 clean minutes with only one turnover, made solid decisions with the basketball, and aggressively looked for his shot in a couple of big spots. For the most part he kept his man in front of him, something he has had trouble with lately. Good effort.

  • Jordan Mathews played his worst game of the year. The toughest part was he seemed to let his poor shooting affect his defense. I trust this is an aberration and he will learn from it.