Shooting struggles, losses continue
Cal conceded the lead early, opening the game with the most frigid of shooting spells. The Bears’ field goal percentage bottomed out at 5.6% after 10 minutes of play — they trailed 14-4 by the time they remembered how to put the ball in the basket. Cal replicated these minutes-long stretches without points throughout the game, making it impossible to launch a comeback.
The Bears’ points from the free throw line and USC’s own shooting woes kept the game close until late in the game, but Cal’s lack of firepower was demonstrably the more problematic of the two teams throughout all 40 minutes.
Cal finished the game shooting 28% — marginal and insufficient gains. The Bears lost 66-51 at the final whistle, falling to 0-8 on the season.
Bears tighten defensive screws
After being blown open by shooters with the hot hand in past games, most notably in the loss to Southern University, Cal’s perimeter defense showed significant progress tonight to subdue the Trojans’ shooting. Guards Devin Askew and Joel Brown were keyed in to stop USC from beyond the arc, flying around screens and making quick rotations. The Trojans shot 31% from three — a respectable line, but also a marked improvement for Fox’s Cal.
In past games, it was precisely the lack of secure perimeter defending that enabled the opposition to resist Cal’s second half hot streak. The Bears were better defensively tonight, but they could never click on the offensive end — no performance has been complete so far this season.
Cal’s Game MVP
Transfer Askew has fully cemented himself as Cal’s offensive hub. Askew finished the night with 23 points, taking the most shots and nearly playing the most minutes of any Cal player tonight. His explosive dribble drives carved open USC’s set and transition defenses — once he infiltrated the Trojan interior, he could kick the ball out to an open teammate or score himself.
Askew struggles heavily from Cal’s lack of a secondary shooting option. USC was keen to send swarms of help defense in his direction, forcing him to pass or take contested shots. As Cal’s only proven scorer this season, Askew still had to maintain his high shooting volume. He shot an inefficient 7-21 from the field but was Cal’s only offensive spark.
Cal will rue the many layups it missed throughout the game. The Bears generated 12 turnovers and 19 offensive rebounds — 31 chances to score easy points in the paint and in transition — but could only create 15 points off these opportunities. Cal’s poor finishing (10-27 from layups) was on display throughout the entire game: The Bears’ bigs and guards equally struggled to crack the Trojan big men and get points under the basket.
No. 4 Arizona will be licking its lips as it welcomes the blue and gold to Tucson on Sunday. Guided by forward Azuolas Tubelis, who is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, the undefeated Wildcats have established themselves as one of the nation’s best teams this year. Meanwhile, Cal is yet to record its first win. Having suffered defeat against minnows of college basketball in UCSD and Southern, Sunday’s game could be a blowout: remain bearish on Cal basketball.