California Men's Basketball: Golden Bears Book First Win of the Season Against UT Arlington
Christmas arrives early for the Golden Bears
Christmas has arrived early for the California Golden Bears (1-12, 0-2 Pac-12).
The men’s basketball team earned its first victory of the season Wednesday night, a decisive 73-51 decision against the University of Texas at Arlington in Haas Pavilion.
After a three-pointer from first-year Grant Newell with 18 seconds left, California went into the halftime break with a nine-point lead. The Golden Bears never looked back after. The home side extended its margin of victory in the second half, never trailing in the final 20 minutes of play.
Seniors Joel Brown and Lars Thiemann contributed 17 points each to bring the Golden Bears the much-needed “W.”
Fellow senior Kuany Kuany put up a career-high 16 points, plus six rebounds and four assists, which helped California earn a favorable result and a season-high 73 total points, even with the absence of Devin Askew. Askew, the Golden Bears’ leading scorer, had suffered an injury earlier this week against Santa Clara.
Indeed, California has been plagued by injuries this season, which has made it difficult for California head coach Mark Fox’s team to get into winning form.
“We still have some major issues to overcome,” Coach Fox told reporters in the post-game press conference. “We still have a lot of [the] season left.”
The men’s basketball head coach continued: “We have a lot of challenges that we still have to address, but I’m really happy for the young people. I really am. It’s been a tough start, obviously, and they deserve to have a little reward.”
Until recently, the California Golden Bears was the last team in the country to be without a win. The team’s most recent non-exhibition triumph was 298 days ago, a 53-39 contest against the Stanford Cardinal on Feb. 26, 2022.
Good for the players, lets them get that nagging proverbial weight off their shoulders
Drove up to watch the game - my notes:
1. Joel and Lars drove this win. Joel got to the rim with ease and hit a bunch of little flip shots in the lane and some really nice layups over and around the UTA defenders. Lars was bigger than the entire UTA team and once he caught the ball with one-step to the basket, he was decisive and went up strong with his jump hooks. I didn't look at the box score, but I'm betting he was like 6-8 around the rim or something. (Just looked: 8-10!) If he could learn how to seal smaller, faster opponents OR learn to catch lobs, he probably could have had 25. Once he caught the ball around the post, he was scoring or getting fouled.
2. Wrenn Robinson gave us some very nice minutes allowing Joel to get a rest. I was worried because UT-A pressed the entire game even after they were down 25 points. I was worried about Joel getting exhausted. Robinson didn't do much on the box score, but he was steady, didn't the turn the ball over, and hit a tough shot with the shot clock running down to save a possession.
3. ESPN's Zach Lowe often talks about defenses "playing on a string" where players rotate and fill in and "help the helper" always filling the spot as the offense passes the ball around to stress the defense. I think we have a lot of good individual defenders - Joel, Kuany, Roberson, Newell, etc - but as UT-A got deeper into their offense, we often ended up giving up open shots because we would just miss a rotation or weren't communicating well. Thankfully UT-A shot terribly. (16-50, 5-25 from 3)
4. We still give up a lot of offensive rebounds
5. Team is still playing together and playing for each other. When Joel hit back to back fast break layups early in the second half, the entire team ran out onto the floor and Fox yelled at them to get back (rightfully). Askew was waving a towel the entire night and jumped up and down - I think he'll be ok soon.
6. First game all season where I saw the team setting some solid screens. Really helped out the purpose of the offense (as Rod Benson referred to in his Chronicle article - our offense is often a lot of running to spots but not accomplishing anything because everyone just slips screens and the defenders are never stressed about staying with their men).
Nice to get off the schneid. We really should have had 4-6 more of these games.