Another disappointment. Another Home Loss. And this time the cherry on top was that we were blown out. Big Time. 79-44 big.
Coming into this game there was some optimism. Playing a depleted ASU squad, that lost Jordan Bachynski and Jahii Carson, that was 1-4 in conference play just like the Bears. Jabari Bird looked like he was going to start and the team had a week long break to readjust and come back fresh. And then the game started...
Cal started the game out strong from the field and playing with some swagger on both offense and defense. Defensive Intensity was at its peak since the Syracuse game. But what goes up, must come down. Tonight it was just a free fall a mere 5 minutes after tip off. After starting 3-4, we went 0-10 the rest of the half. THE REST OF THE HALF. We shot an abysmal 21.4% on 3-14 shooting, ending the half on 10 points. Statistically we under performed on every category. The bears were out rebounded, out assisted, out steal-ed, out turnover, out everything. The only statistical category that we won was in blocks and that was 2-1. Just look at the box score of the first half. That alone did not give any optimism for a close second half, let alone a comeback. Here is the box score from the first half.
What this doesn't tell you is how bad the team was playing overall. Let's start with the offense. The team seemed out of place and out of sync. Players did not seem to know what the game plan was and where to be on offense. The motion offense that we are supposed to be running seemed to be non-existent. Players ran in circles around the floor and passing never went anywhere meaningful. It was left to right passes around the perimeter and not much probing to test the defense. It seemed as the though the game plan for all the guys off the ball was to just get open. This led to Bears running into each other and awful spacing, which led to a lot of dropped and missed passes. Spacing was a huge issue especially between the wings and the post players. All of our bigmen posted up way off the blocks and were pushed out to where they were within a few feet of the entry pass. This didn't allow for great passing angles and often led to easy steals for ASU. But that was the half court offense. The fast break was where we were active and I have to admit we were (looking) good. We got out on the break a lot forcing their transition defense to either foul or allow an easy bucket, but our biggest letdown was the fact that we could not finish around the rim. Our Free Throw shooting was actually good tonight, and might have been our best Free Throw shooting night of the season, but that was meaningless when we could not score on the floor. Turnovers were also a huge issue. At one point, a help defender came up behind Mathews and simply popped the ball out, took it down the floor, and came up with points. The rate at which we were turning the ball over was amazing, world class amazing.
Now lets move on to the defense. Oh my word the defense. Where to even begin. This game was probably the most atrocious our defense has played all year. We played with tenacity and with high energy but the overall defense was terrible. I expect higher from a Coach who prides himself on defense and toughness and going into conference play our defense should have gotten better and not worse. Let's start with the player scouting and information. Let's establish that Bo Barnes is indeed, ASU's biggest jump shooting threat. Everybody knows that... But did you know that we would cheat down to double up a big instead of keeping a body on him at all times? Eric Jacobsen is good, but he is not the player that Jordan Bachynski was. It just did not make sense to double a post player from the wing leaving on the better shooting threats in the Pac-12 open to shoot at will. Barnes shot 5-7 with 2 3's and ended the game with 17 points. The same happened with Kodi Justice and he ended the gamewith 17 points on 5-7 shooting with 4 3's. We did do a great job not allowing McKissic and Goodman to get too many open drives to the basket, but simple mathematics say that 3s > 2s. It just seemed that the team did not know who to play up on and who to sag off on. This leads to the second biggest mistake our defense was making and that was on screens. ASU ran a lot of screen motion plays on our defense and we simply did not know when to switch and when to fight through the screen. This led to open lanes to the basket or simple 15 foot pull ups that the ASU guards would bury. Once again that leads back to the preparation of player scouting and information given to the players to make sure that they knew how to guard their respective assignments.
Statistically this is how it panned out for us:
It's safe to say that we can't free fall any more than we have at this point. There weren't much, if any, positives to take away from this game but there are things that we have to avoid if we have any chance at semi-salvaging this season. Here's a few to name:
- Tyrone Wallace cannot go 0 from the field. Granted nobody got a lot of looks today but for our best player to only score from the charity stripe just cannot happen if we are to win games.
- Find a rotation and stick with it. Too many of our bench guys have been playing random amounts of minutes and just are too unprepared to play more or less.
- Limit TOs to 10 or less. Our season average is 10 so we should stick by that... and not give up 19.
- Choose a gameplan and stick to it. We have been changing out gameplan to out play our opponent but that hasn't been working, now its time to just stick to one offensive method and stick to it regardless of win or lose. This will help alleviate some of the headaches of weird spacing and confusion between players.
A big sigh is all we can do at this point. After starting the season 6-1, all hopes of a surprise season have now vanished. We have yet to play Arizona and Utah, and if we have any shot at turning this season around and making the tournament, making a statement win on Saturday against the Wildcats will definitely steer the ship in the right direction.