Basketball pregame warmup drills are simple — universal, even. From youth basketball leagues to the NBA, the textbook pregame drill is almost always a fundamental routine of layups and jump shots.
It’s hardly fair to expect a 100% jump shot percentage — even Stephen Curry had to resort to technological manipulation after his practice video went viral (granted, the shots in said video traveled the entire length of the court). However, the Bears managed to miss five open layups in their pregame warmup Wednesday night.
If the 0-9 start to the season and the COVID-19-related absence of leading scorer Devin Askew weren’t already enough indication, this was the newest herald of woe for Cal men’s basketball heading into the matchup against Eastern Washington.
The final score read 50-48, Eastern Washington, when the final buzzer sounded at Haas Pavilion.
A showdown of mediocrity is probably the most fitting phrase for Wednesday night’s competition. Three-pointers in this game were like Taylor Swift concert tickets, as both teams couldn’t seem to buy a triple if their lives depended on it, and shot below 20% from beyond the arc. A 7-point deficit separated Cal from its opponents at the half, one that was extended by a buzzer beater three from Eastern Washington’s forward Angelo Allegri.
If beautiful basketball was poetry in motion, then this matchup was poorly-written prose at a stoplight (save a beautiful Luka Doncic-esque pass from Joel Brown to Kuany Kuany midway through the second half). Nevertheless, Cal managed to keep the Eagles within striking distance and the game remained a nailbiter toward the very end.
The Bears ultimately fell short, something they seem to have gotten quite used to this season.
Although the numbers don’t necessarily reflect it, Eastern Washington guard Tyreese Davis played like Ja Morant in an Eagles jersey, making some miraculously timed shots to keep his team afloat in the second half.
As for Cal, senior center Lars Thiemann replaced Askew as the leading scorer of the game, putting up 16 points, all of which were in the paint. However, despite standing an inch above seven feet, Thiemann lacked a significant defensive presence. A failure to execute defensively was the X-factor in this home loss, as the Eagles had no problem driving to the basket late in the second half.
“(This was) a disappointing loss, for sure. Very challenging circumstances today. (We were) extremely disjoined on both ends as we had to move guys around,” said head coach Mark Fox. “Everybody had to change positions except Joel (Brown).”
Whether Askew will return for Saturday’s nonconference matchup against Butler University is still unclear. With its total losses now reaching double digits, Cal is no longer just battling talent and skill gaps, but morale ones too.
Butler boasts a 7-3 overall record and averages a near 40% field goal percentage from three — quite average considering modern basketball standards, but well over Cal’s measly 27%.
“I actually think adversity is a good thing,” coach Fox said. “On the other side of this, there will be a lot of positives. We have to battle to the other side. This is a very difficult situation, but somebody has to maintain the belief that this is good and we can get through it. And I can stand alone in that.”