It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s yet another Cal men’s basketball loss on the horizon.
0-7 and counting, the Bears now regroup to face the USC Trojans after dropping both games in the Emerald Coast Classic. However disheartening the first few losses in the season were for fans, there was hope that the blue and gold had potential and merely needed to tie up some loose ends. But now, fans are not quite sure whether they make that much string.
From 3,128 in the season opener against UC Davis to the most recent 1,211 at the Texas State matchup, the staggering decline in attendance in Haas Pavilion could be testament to the crumbling morale surrounding Cal’s basketball program. Head coach Mark Fox shoulders the blame.
“I understand people are frustrated. We’re frustrated, we’re trying to make it better,” Fox said. “Everyone’s frustrated. I would just ask them to direct their frustration at me, not the players.”
If the opponents that Cal has faced might have been above its paygrade, the Trojans are on a different level entirely. Propelling 47 players to the professional league (three of which immortalized their place in basketball history in the Hall of Fame), USC is a basketball school in every sense of the word.
Although the Trojans may have lost a colossal presence on the court in Isaiah Mobley after sending the forward to the Cleveland Cavaliers, their basketball prowess remains untouched. Senior guard Boogie Ellis will prove a force to be reckoned with, consistently putting up double-digit scoring in the season, with a high of 27 against BYU. To put even more pressure on the already-middling Cal defense, 6’9’’ Drew Peterson rounds out the Trojan backcourt, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds this season.
“Obviously they have good size and athleticism, they’re a pretty complete basketball team,” Fox said. “We’re going to have to play very sound offensively.”
So far, the phrase “sound offense” is not something that can or should be uttered in the same sentence as Cal men’s basketball. Devin Askew is carrying the blue and gold offense more than LeBron James carried the Cavs circa 2014 (perhaps lacking the actual success factor).
Averaging well over 30 minutes per game and leading his team in scoring with 16.7 points per game, Askew is more than capable of making his mark on the game.
Nevertheless, the trademark of superstar players goes beyond their personal performance, but rather their ability to improve those around them. It’s what solidifies James as an all-time great and it’s why Luka Doncic is atop the MVP ladder for the past consecutive weeks. To actually comfortably settle into the leadership role on this team, Askew needs to be more than just a scorer — he needs to be a playmaker.
Coach Fox has nothing but praise for the junior guard.
“He’s learning the system and will only get more comfortable as the season goes along. He’s really playing pretty productive in many many ways,” Fox said. “He continues to have the right approach and he’s a great young man.”
There is no doubt that the Trojan offense will batter and bludgeon the blue and gold interior, and the USC firepower will more than likely be too much for the Bears to handle. However, at this point in the season, one more loss would be nothing more than insult to injury.