Cal Men's Basketball comes out flat in the season opener against UCSD, loses 67-80
Hope springs eternal right? Or is it the hope that kills you? This season opener was probably the perfect summation of both those statements holding true. An unorthodox time, a newly minted D1 team, and 4 players missing due to injury led to a confusingly frustrating game.
The Bears started the game relatively well. New guard Jordan Shepherd shot the ball well with 14 points on 5-8 shooting and 2-2 from beyond the arc. The offense ran a lot of motion: down screens away from the ball to free up shooters, pick and roll from the wing, drive and kicks to the corner. The makings of a modern offense looked to be in the making. The struggles and stalling of the offense in certain positions looked like rust. Players couldn’t figure out where to go or find the space when the secondary and tertiary offensive movement didn’t grant them an opening. Grant Anticevich couldn’t find room to shoot, there were some late clock moments where the entire team was too packed into one side of the court. Once again. The thought in my head was, “Could be rust.”
Defensively there were some lapses and missed assignments. A part of me just chalked it up to a fairly new team composition that included multiple guys getting starter minutes that was a bit player last season and two freshmen. Some guys expecting help. Some guys expecting a space to be filled. Some miscommunication. It was evident the athletic ability was there but a lot of guys just did not have the in-game experience.
Halftime adjustments were easy to spot out:
Tighten up the defense, not allowing easy cuts and moves to the basket
Start moving the ball a bit more urgency in the movement and motion on offense
Physically come out aggresive and dominate a team that has only been in the D1 since July of 2020
It didn't get much better in the second half.
The Bears actually got worse. Shooting as a team dropped from 45% to 34% while UCSD started to heat up shooting 67% from the field compared to 43% in the first half.
The Bears maintained their 3PT shooting at around where it was going 3-10 in the first half but 2-8 in the second. UCSD torched us from behind the line, erupting for 70% on 7-10 shots from 3, compared to their measly 25% (3-12) in the first half.
Every UCSD player outside of 2 ended in the positive of +/-.
Every Cal player outside of 3 ended in the negative of +/-.
The Bears were absolutely outmatched and outcoached this game by a team that has at most 1 year of D1 experience and a coach that has only 1 year of D1 coaching experience.
I do not know what more to write about this performance. The first game in with fans and it was one of the biggest letdown performances from a team and program that needs to start winning now to get back into the interest of many fans. It’s going to take a lot to get fans to buy into this team and they face a steep uphill battle of improvement.
So the question for this team for the near future is this.
How long does hope spring?