Many call basketball a game of two halves, but this game was essentially the same story throughout: Arizona State in control. Akin to their name, the Sun Devils started the game hot as hell, building up a lead as large as 12 in the first half.
While it looked like the Devils were going to run away with the game by the end of the first half, the Bears took the heat and cut the 12-point deficit to just 6 with 15 seconds to spare in the half.
Although a 6-point first half deficit doesn’t look egregious at face value, Cal had a sloppy first half. The visiting team committed eight turnovers and nine fouls compared to the home team’s four turnovers and three fouls. Arizona State was also able to penetrate the paint with ease, scoring 18 points in the area.
Predictably, from the blue and gold’s high turnover margins, the Sun Devils were able to gain momentum in transition, outscoring the Bears 9-2 in that department.
Cal also had zero second-chance points in the first half; a stat such as this usually does not bode well for teams, as second-chance points are an efficient way for offenses to score while keeping the defense scrambling.
One notable positive for Cal from the first half is that Arizona State was just 1-5 from 3, which kept the game within reach.
Basketball is a game of runs and momentum. With the Bears barreling back from a double-digit deficit at the end of the first half, Cal put itself in a decent place to climb out of the deficit.
The Devils had other plans. The once 6-point margin ballooned to a deficit of 27 at the end of the night, demoralizing the blue and gold.
If Arizona State’s 64.3% second half field goal percentage didn’t tell you enough, the Sun Devils were extremely efficient, ending the game with an impressive 1.109 Points Per Possession. To put these numbers into context, Cal ended the game with .688 points per possession on a measly 25.8% second half field goal percentage.
There are plenty of other stats that illustrate how poorly the Bears played. The reality is, Cal must just keep it moving. Reflecting on what went wrong in the 71-44 loss is important, but the team cannot afford to hang their heads too low considering the titan they are about to take on No. 2-ranked Arizona.
Keeping expectations very low is already a good rule of thumb when watching the blue and gold, but this should especially be the case for Cal fans when the Bears play the Wildcats this upcoming weekend.
There isn’t much to be said for this Arizona squad. The Wildcats are 15-0 at home this season with a 16-2 conference record. Overall, this team is 26-3 and has made light work of other ranked opponents such as USC and UCLA (most recently clobbering No. 16 USC by 20 points).
When teams have a reliable interior presence coupled with perimeter scorers, this makes them tough to stop: case in point, Arizona.
The Wildcats’ two leading scorers are 6’6” guard Bennedict Mathurin and 6’11” forward Azuolas Tubelis; together, they combine to average more than 32 points per game.
There’s no great way for Cal to game plan against this duo. Mathurin shoots a solid 38.2% from distance while also being a very capable slasher and distributor. This makes him tough to stop as defenders must respect his shot while worrying about getting blown by.
And for Tubelis, he’s 6 foot 11: The Bears simply don’t have the size to combat him.
If Cal fans are hoping to see another victory this season, they may have to wait for the Pac-12 tournament.