“I thought we played well defensively tonight,” said head coach Mark Fox.
The 72-46 win against Idaho State marked both the second-biggest margin of victory for the Bears and the first time Cal held an opponent to below 50 points this season. Even as the Bears have had trouble stopping the opposing team’s leading scorers this season, they refused to let that be their downfall.
“Tonight’s emphasis was just to play a lot of defense,” said guard Joel Brown.
The Bengals’ leading scorer Tarik Cool was held to a measly 8 points on 3-14 shooting, his worst offensive performance of the season. The 6’4” senior guard wasn’t the only one who couldn’t buy a bucket, though, as the Bengals shot an overall 28% from the field as a team.
While the Bengals do try to sink their fair share of 3-pointers, this does not mean that they are good at making them. Playing right into the Bears’ claws, Idaho State settled for mediocre as it canned just four shots from distance on 21 attempts.
Assists are not a surefire measure of how well a player or team passes, but they do serve as an adequate indicator. Cal forced Idaho State into taking tough isolation shots, and this worked in the Bears’ favor as the Bengals ended the game with an atrocious 4:10 turnover-assist ratio (a typical benchmark being 2:1).
Not only did the Bears put on a defensive clinic, but they also performed on the offensive end. Cal did not settle with taking contested 3-pointers, instead following the flow of the game, making them with a respectable 38.5% clip.
“They sent extra help. I was just finding the open guys. I believe in my team, I trust my team, and they were able to knock down shots,” said guard Jordan Shepherd.
Today’s new-age basketball favors perimeter play, but that was seldom seen as the blue and gold opted for old-school bully ball: They outscored the Bengals 42-16 in the paint and out-rebounded them 44-32.
Star players are not restricted to a roster’s starting players: The Bears’ bench had a noteworthy performance, as it outscored the Bengals’ bench 31-13. Junior 7-footer Lars Thiemann led the way with 12 points on an extremely efficient 4-5 from the field.
“Lars played really well, but that’s what he’s capable of. … We see it everyday in practice,” Shepherd said.
As the Bears make their way down the season schedule, they prepare to brace themselves against a much more formidable opponent, the 7-3 Santa Clara Broncos.
“They have a really good team, and I have a lot of respect for their program, and we will have to play really well,” Fox said.
Cal will have to continue its staunch defensive efforts, as the Broncos have a record of coming in hot. Lethal from a distance, Santa Clara has managed to sink 38.3% of its 3-point shots this season.
While they have been able to avoid competing against the toughest of teams, the Broncos are still averaging nearly 80 points per game, which shows they are more than capable of putting on an offensive clinic.
In addition to their high 3-point clip, they average an impressive 16.9 assists per game, showing that they prioritize ball movement and good shots. To put this number into perspective, Cal averages just 9.8 assists per game while its opponents have averaged 9.1 against it.
If the blue and gold want to get back above the .500 mark, they must continue to put an emphasis on defense and defend their home court.