The three musketeers, the golden trio and the number of words Orlando Bloom’s Legolas says to protagonist Frodo in the entirety of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Whether it’s in literature, borderline cringey aphorisms or even really specific Tolkien trivia, three seems to be the magic number. Now it’s up to Bear basketball to prove whether it really is so as it hosts USD for its third game of the season.
As the blue and gold head home with yet another loss against a beatable team, hopes for a breakout season are looking dimmer by the minute. The matchup against UNLV was a close one but ended up with the Bears falling just short of a victory in Las Vegas.
Despite the loss, it’s evident that the Bears practiced their fair share of shots at the line after the abysmal free-throw shooting performance by the entire team in the loss to USD, shooting a perfect 6-6 at the line Saturday night. Though this didn’t necessarily pave the way to UNLV’s defeat, small victories like these are important in the presence of winless seasons.
Shooting nearly 42% from the field against UNLV as opposed to 20% against USD, Grant Anticevich seems to have leveled off. If only his steadiness was paired with Jordan Shepherd’s career-high Cal debut performance, taking down UNLV would have been no problem. The key to a needed Cal victory right now is consistency. Shepherd has the potential to be the leading man who drags Cal basketball out of its slump, but without consistency, he also loses dependability.
“I thought (Shepherd) was by far the best player on our team. He needs some help; he needs some stability from some other guys who’ve played big minutes,” said head coach Mark Fox. “He’s a really smart player, and he makes people better around him.”
The 0-2 Bears look for a victory over the 2-0 USD Toreros on Monday night as they return to Haas Pavilion — and fans, players and coaches alike are all desperate for a win.
“We have to sustain some defense,” Fox said. “It’s hard to get a fast break when you’re taking it out of the net. We have to start defending. We have to start making progress, and it’s going to be at that end.”
Echoing Fox’s sentiment, Cal’s defensive performance is critical against any team — but especially the Toreros. In their last matchup against Nevada, three out of the five USD starters shot at least 50% from the field, and the whole team put up a near 60% three-point percentage in the first half. A deadly combo, if you ask me. In their last matchups, USD also scored 17 points off turnovers against Nevada as opposed to the Bears’ eight against UNLV, so the Bears will also have to tighten their grip on the ball come Monday night. One aspect in which the Bears seem to have the Toreros beaten on paper is rebounds. In order for the Bears to have any hopes of gaining the first dub of their season at home, the bigs on the team — including Anticevich and Andre Kelly — will have to properly box out and snatch some boards.
Amid the season, two new Cal recruits have yet to showcase their talent on the court. Four
Bears, including guard Makale Foreman, have also been absent from the lineup due to injuries. Though the 0-2 record may look grim right now, fans should not count the Bears out just yet. In the meantime, Monday night will show just how much magic the number three actually holds.