12/12. In the context of sports, that usually means something positive.
12 hits in 12 at-bats.
12 baskets out of 12 attempted.
12 shots on target out of 12 shots.
But as it relates to Mark Fox and the Cal Bears? It’s the exact opposite. The Bears have fallen into the cellar of the conference and sit dead last in the conference.
The Bears now sit 3 games behind Washington if they want to climb out of the last position in the conference. The game against Arizona did not do them any favors.
Before we move on to what went wrong for the Bears, let’s talk about what Arizona brought to the game. First, the constant irrelevance of Sean Miller’s attempted mask-wearing, he’d wear it as players walked over to him then take it off when talking to them, then back on as they walked away then back off when he was kneeling courtside. It was all very confusing. Second, the Wildcats actually respected the 3PT prowess of this Cal team and were the first team to actively deny it. They attacked the high screen and roll, denied any attempt from 3, and forced our shooters into uncomfortable shooting situations. The Bears came into the game with some of the best 3PT shooters in the conference, and the Wildcats went into full Deny-Deny-Deny mode for any of them to get off a clean shot from range. Enough about the Wildcats did, let’s talk about the Bears.
Some key stats that led to the loss:
16 turnovers, a majority of them unforced, leading to 15 points for Arizona.
34 points in the paint allowed.
15 second-chance points allowed off of 9 offensive rebounds.
The Bears looked uncomfortable from the start and none of the Bears, outside of Matt Bradley and Andre Kelly, attacked the interior of the defense with any confidence. Even then, Andre quickly got into foul trouble and was limited to just 4 attempts on the afternoon. He even fouled out with the rare 6 fouls as he fouled out with a technical. Matt Bradley once again hard-carried the team’s offense scoring 5-6 from beyond the arc despite the lack of space and offensive spacing to operate in his usual lanes and areas. Cal’s usually threatening 3PT shooters were all deemed useless. The only way some of our 3PT shooters got free was from pindown screens, but even then it would be a tough attempt as guys like Betley and Foreman would have to catch on the turn at the 3PT line and shoot without having enough time to get their feet set for the shot. Even the pindown screens and shooters would be re-routed from the corner to the top of the arc. That’s a large distance for shooters to cover just to gain a half step of space for a shot.
There just seemed to be a disconnect for the Bears after they realized they would not have the usual space from beyond the arc. At least one Cal shooter would have space to be able to get off good looks from the land beyond the 2, but there wasn’t any inkling of daylight in the desert. Without their perimeter game doing the heavy lifting, of creating easier looks, the Bears were unsure what to do and starting forcing looks. Despite the tough time from 3, the Bears still attempted 22 of their 47 shots from long range.
On the other side of the ball, the Bears bled points inside. This isn’t that surprising as the defense has been an issue all season long, but the Wildcats have struggled with the 2PT shots only shooting 49% from inside the arc. Instead of zeroing in and forcing them to shoot from outside, 16 of the 27 made came inside the paint. The Wildcats found whatever they wanted on offense and controlled the tempo with 17 assisted baskets. While playing catchup, the Wildcats interior dominance allowed for open looks from 3, letting them score 46.2% from 3. Also to note that Arizona is the second-best 3PT shooting team in the conference.
All in all. It was a bad showing from the Bears. They looked unorganized, lost in all aspects of the game, and just bombing away hoping these tough looks from 3 would start to connect. Matt Bradley did his utmost best to keep the game competitive and looked to have regained some semblance of form leading into the final month of the season. Mark Fox looked dejected on the sidelines watching his team with his hands by his sides on certain plays. And with the last month of the season remaining, it’s becoming more and more of a reality that the Bears could finish with just the two conference wins on the season.