Cal Men's Basketball can't convert chances in loss to USC
Every run the Bears had were stomped out by the Trojans
In their first Pac 12 road trip of the season, Cal Men’s Basketball couldn’t shake the self inflicted thorns in their side against USC. The Bears came out aggressive but were stumped in their half court offense, as the Trojans were cutting off dribble penetration and passing lanes. This resulted in a 1/7 start from 3 point range for Cal, where they were chucking up shots off the dribble that weren’t in rhythm.
Star USC guards Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Collier racked up numbers early and often, combining for 10 of USC’s first 12 points.There would be some back and forth for the bulk of the first half, until Bronny James took flight off an alley oop from Collier. Cal hadn’t necessarily been committing a lot of egregious turnovers by this point, but were only getting offensive contributions from Jaylon Tyson , Jalen Celestine, and Keonte Kennedy in the first half.
USC went to the locker room with a 37-29 lead over Cal, and you figured that the Bears had staved off quite a bit of momentum. However, the Trojans came out with more poise in the second half, with the lead ballooning to 45-31 before Mark Madsen had to call timeout. Despite a gap that was as much as 17 at one point, Cal slowly but surely fought their way back to only be down 4 with 30 seconds left after a Tyson three pointer but could get no further thanks to several clutch sequences from Boogie Ellis on a shot clock expiring three and a pocket pass that had Fardaws Aimaq all out of sorts.
The Trojans held on thanks to an incinerating second half come Kobe Johnson who scored all 14 of his points on 5/6 shooting. Meanwhile the Bears had another breakout performance from Rodney Brown Jr who scored 11 points on 3/6 from three point range in the second half and provided much needed stability down the stretch for Cal over Jalen Cone.
Despite the fight, Cal fell to 4-10 and notched another close loss on to their resume. Aimaq was locked up by Joshua Morgan all night, whose presence, athleticism, and gravity proved to be a bad matchup for Aimaq. Jalen Cone once again couldn’t get going, only shooting 2/8 from the floor. Devin Askew was inactive and had a boot on his foot, another setback for him this season. And eventually, those costly turnovers down the stretch eventually spelled doom for the Bears in South Central by a score of 82-74 (I hope some fans didn’t bet Cal +7/7.5 with that last foul with 2.7 seconds remaining to lose by 8).
Cal will take on UCLA next from Pauley Pavilion on Sat, Jan 6 at 7:00 pm.
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