When internet paleontologists dig up the remains of the 2022-23 Cal men’s basketball season, they won’t have any trouble assembling the bones together into a perfect fit. Any sports fan can recognize these artifacts.
The fossilized remains will include a twitter feed that posts a few times a game: tip-off, halftime, final score — maybe a highlight to break up the routine. They’ll discover a YouTube channel with comments turned off. Slumped shoulders at postgame interviews. The diagnosis will be clear: it was another one of “those seasons.”
The Bears dropped two home games this week. The first was a 58-87 walloping by Oregon. Not to be outdone by its neighbors, Oregon State handed the blue and gold a 48-68 defeat three days later. This second loss put Cal on the wrong side of history — the Beavers had not won a game away from home in 666 days. Even if this streak had been a less ominous number, it would still forebode dark times for a Cal program that has not conjured any goodwill among fans in recent years.
After the loss against Oregon, head coach Mark Fox pointed to the defense as the reason behind the Bears’ struggles.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Oregon’s team,” said Fox. “They have a really talented team … but I was very disappointed in our defensive play tonight. We have to commit to that end, and we just haven’t.”
He echoed the exact same sentiments after Cal’s loss to Oregon State.
“I’m so disappointed in our defensive play,” said Fox. “I don’t take anything away from Oregon State because they made 13 threes, but I’m extremely disappointed in our inability to establish any kind of defense that we can rely on.”
But Cal’s problems go beyond the defensive end. After the Oregon game, senior center Lars Thiemann called the effort “as bad of a game we’ve had all season.” Kuany Kuany, a forward also in his senior year, remarked that the team “didn’t create enough opportunities for each other. We didn’t turn the ball over too much, but we barely had any assists so we weren’t creating any open looks.”
Oregon did not have this problem. Just like their mighty namesake, the Ducks flew together. They dished out 19 assists, blowing out Cal’s total of six. Nobody scored more than 13 points, but their balanced attack added up to 87. There was no fluke shooting night or controversial foul call to push them over the edge. The better team just won.
The same happened on Sunday night. The Beavers stormed into Haas Pavilion and left with their first road victory in nearly two years. Freshman guard Jordan Pope led the way with 19 points. He practically built his own dam around the rim, going six-for-six on two pointers. Oregon State could score from wherever it wanted, complimenting its rim attacks by shooting 13-24 from deep.
Kuany Kuany gave the Bears some life with 15 efficient points off the bench, but the ball never got rolling.
Of course, there’s still Stanford. Saturday, Cal will face its biggest rival at Maples Pavilion. The Bears won the first clash, but Stanford has rebounded by beating — to Cal’s alarm — Oregon State and Oregon. The Cardinal are trying to salvage their own season, having improved to 7-12 with these two victories.
It’s too late for the Bears to turn the season around. But when curious fans find the remnants of their 2022-23 season, it may be next to a tree that they’ve chopped down twice.