In his tenure at Cal, Wyking Jones has coached 23 Pac-12 games (including last year’s defeat in the Pac-12 tournament). His record is 2-21 in those games. Only 5 of the 21 losses have been by single digits. I have been assigned to write the recap in 11 of those games, and we are 2-9 in my recaps, so I guess I’m doing better than expected value.
Nevertheless, I’m getting tired of this. And since I’m an unpaid blogger, not a real journalist, I can make this about me for a second. This isn’t fun. I got into the blogging game because I’ve lived and breathed Cal basketball for decades, I deeply love this program and all it stands for, and it’s been fun to share that love and the joy of basketball with the Cal community.
But nothing is fun about covering this team these days, and nothing is fun about being a Cal basketball fan through the worst stretch of basketball since Cal first fielded a team.
That’s a roundabout way of saying, I don’t have a whole lot for you, fam. After almost two years of this, there’s very little for me to add to the conversation right now. Cal lost to Arizona on Saturday, 87-65, and the long, painful death of the program we love continues.
When the broadcast opened, Ted Robinson and Bill Walton told us the Cal coaching staff emphasized defensive energy today in practice. (A little odd, because I did not see the blue mouthguards out there today, and can you really teach defense without blue mouthguards?) For the opening stretch of the game, it looked like the team had taken the lessons to heart. They played swarming defense inside the paint, and did a great job of limiting perimeter penetration -- skills we had not seen much of all year. At the under 12:00 timeout, Arizona was 3-8 on 2p shots, with 2 interior turnovers, and we wondered whether Cal’s defense had turned a corner.
It had not.
The Bears could not maintain their focus, and Arizona started getting easy shots at the rim. Then their perimeter players started penetrating and driving wherever the wanted, adding to the parade of layups. After their 3-8 start, Arizona finished the game 24-38 on 2p shots, good for 63%. The Bear defense has now given up better than 60% 2p shooting to each of its four opponents in Pac-12 play...defensive results almost unimaginable for a team with high D1 players. The Wildcats put up 1.30 points per possession, their best offensive night of the year. They found it easier to score on us than when they played such defensive powerhouses as UC Davis, Cal Poly, and Houston Baptist.
This is the place where, if I cared, I’d go over some sequences with y’all that illustrate some of the poor things we’re doing that allow such easy forays to the rim. But that’s just it, I don’t care. We all know the deal here. The Cal defense cannot stop anyone from scoring. This is a recording.
Offensively, the ball security was better with the return of starting point guard Paris Austin, but shot selection was questionable against a near-elite Arizona defense, and shots didn’t drop for anyone besides Justice Sueing. He was 6-8 2p and 2-5 3p, good for 27 points on 13 shots. (He also got to the FT line 10 times, and exhibited a strong, aggressive offensive game.) The rest of the team? 6-27 on 2p shots. 6-18 on 3p shots. Not nearly enough to keep up with the Wildcats gone wild.
I think this is where I’m supposed to say that at least we looked improved for some stretches of this game, and at least the players are still (ostensibly) playing hard and trying. They’re young, so let’s give it time. Hurrah.
But honestly, I’m tired of this.
A 13-35 overall record is not okay. 2-21 in conference is not okay. At some point it’s beyond nuance and schematic breakdown. At some point “trying hard” is not good enough. Have you reached that point, Cal fans? Because I’m very close.