To quote Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, I don't know what to say, really. On the last given Sunday, Cal lost to a CSU-Bakersfield team that, to put it lightly, was not up to the caliber of the competition they will face in conference play. It may just be an aberration. Chaminade beat Virginia in 1982 when Virginia was number one in the country, and the Cavaliers still went to the Final Four that season. While the Bears may lack a Ralph Sampson, they aren't automatically a bad team for this one loss. Granted, it was a bad loss. Cal lacked an ability to make free throws and didn't control the ball, both things that they have been inconsistent with so far.
Luckily, the calendar has turned over, and the Bears haven't done anything bad in 2015 so we can take solace in that. There has to be a message sent in the coming games. Slow starts can no longer be acceptable in games where the talent level is even. Even with a talent disparity in the last game, we got beat due to trying to pull the rope-a-dope routine one too many times. It won't work anymore, and everyone on the roster and coaching staff knows that.
Now, we have a Washington team coming off a discouraging loss as well. The 13th year of the Lorenzo Romar regime started with an 11-0 start and a number 13 ranking. Beating quality teams in San Diego State and Oklahoma, the Huskies have been playing pretty good basketball before the Stony Brook loss. They've been playing solid defense and rank 6th in the country in defensive field goal percentage. They hold opponents to 34% shooting per game and 8.6 assists per game. They have solid length and will limit the passing lanes. Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, and Jernard Jerreau are averaging over a steal a game. Robert Upshaw is their main rim protector, averaging a mammoth 4.6 blocks per game.
The worry is that Washington's defense will clamp down on the passing lanes, leading to the same turnover problems that have plagued the Bears. Upshaw in particular is worrisome. He's a legitimate 7 footer, a rim protector unlike what Cal has seen so far. He may stymie Tyrone Wallace's scampers to the hoop, but he has had problems with foul trouble, so we may be treated to the best student section chant when he fouls out.
G Nigel Williams-Goss (So.) 6'3" 190 lbs 13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 6.7 apg
G Andrew Andrews (Jr.) 6'2" 195 lbs 12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 34.7% FG
G Mike Anderson (Sr.) 6'4" 205 lbs 7.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg
F Jernard Jerreau (Jr.) 6'10" 240 lbs 5.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg
F Shawn Kemp Jr. (Sr.) 6'9" 255 lbs 10.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg 64.2% FG%
C Robert Upshaw (Jr.) 7'0" 250 lbs 10.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.6 bpg
G Darin Johnson (So.) 6'5" 200 lbs
F Donaven Dorsey (Fr.) 6'7" 215 lbs
G/F Quevyn Winters (Jr.) 6'5" 205 lbs
Upshaw, a transfer from Fresno State, is the sixth man for this team, providing rim protection that the Huskies lacked last year. Shawn "Drizzle Boy" Kemp Jr. has been excellent in shooting the ball, though he only takes about seven shots a game. He has a higher field goal percentage than he does with free throws, which sounds familiar. Andrew Andrews has a silly name, and his shot selection has been less than satisfactory. Nigel Williams-Goss is the guy with the most potential amongst the team, and his statistical prowess has proved that. Williams-Goss and Upshaw will be the two biggest problems the Bears will face on Friday.
And now, making its grand return, the #tracepuntos for victory.
1. Box Out
This is going to be even more important for a team with size like Washington. Too many times did Behrens and Kravish get out of position for offensive rebounds, and the remaining players on defense didn't pick up the slack against Bakersfield. Fundamentals are going to be a big deal in conference play, and the Bears won't get away with slipping up on the little things.
2. Leaving the Turnovers to Rachael Ray
Between the Montana game and the Bakersfield game, sloppy play has defined the Bears far too often. With a team that can and will play aggressively up on Mathews, Wallace and Kravish, protecting the ball is a main priority. Too many sloppy passes have led to far too many groans from the Haas crowd. This may also stem from a need to play faster. The half court sets have been riddled with not enough movement and a continued reliance on Ty Wallace's drives. Playing up tempo can eliminate some of the sloppiness
3. Take advantage of open looks
This includes free throws, where Cal shot a dazzling 56% from the charity stripe last Sunday. Dwight Tarwater and Sam Singer had their fair share of open looks that clanged away as well. Those will eventually need to start falling, but there are going to be fewer high-percentage opportunities than there were against Bakersfield. Whatever the problem is, mechanical or otherwise, it needs to be solved. Otherwise, this may not be a game where the Bears can get back on the horse.