Rob's Bear Log: Cal Men's Basketball, Offensive Juggernaut?

Statistically we could be a very good shooting offense.

This is going to be a short recap-analysis (an ancap? Re-alysis?), with Nick’s Monday column tomorrow covering the games this past weekend in more detail, but I figured we should talk about what happened in Salt Lake City on Saturday evening.

So. That certainly was something of a game. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a Cal game with such a dramatic change in shooting percentages for both teams. There were honestly 4 different offenses that played last night. The Bears got the better end of the difference to propel itself to a 50 point second half and secure its first conference road win and second conference win.

The first half was uninspiring for the Bears. It looked like one of those games where we were gonna get blown out and lose by 20. The Bears barely scored double-digits heading into the final 5 minutes of the half and were down 15 points with 5:38 left in the half. Our abysmal 12th ranked (in the conference) defense continued in this half allowing one of the BEST 2PT% teams in the conference to score at will inside and allowing the second WORST 3PT% team in the conference to shoot 45% from 3. Rotations were off, we were getting beat off the dribble, assignments were out of sync, and the body language of the players just looked like they wanted the game to just end so that they could go home. Offensively it was even worse. Nothing would fall. 18% from 3 when our season average sat above 34% heading into the game. No one in double digits. Our leading scorers had 4 points. 4!! The lack of motion or any type of system was not evident. The Bears would run one play/action, then the perimeter players would just stand and ball watch for one of the ball handlers to try and create something. As I said earlier, they looked tired, uninspired, and just wanted the game to be over to go home, but the second half? That was impressive.

The Bears’ offense EXPLODED in the second half. As the image above shows, the Bears did it last season in the first game of the season, but that was behind Bradley’s 25 and 3 other players scoring in double digits. This half was different. Everyone looked locked in. Lay-ups, 3s, fouled on 3s, and Free Throws. Bears scored in every fashion that would make Mike D’antoni and Daryl Morey proud. It was a very impressive showing on offense for the Bears who hadn’t shown a chance of this type of explosion without the gravitas of Matt Bradley’s presence on the court. Kuany Kuany, Ryan Betley, and Makale Foreman all made their necessary shots. While Joel Brown masterfully created open looks for the Bears leading to five 2nd half assists. Grant Anticevich had a small supernova half going 100% from the field and absolutely lighting up the Utes from the perimeter. They took advantage of the open looks and capitalized on the chance that they were given by Utah’s fouling troubles and turnovers. The Cal defense still was out of sync and unorganized and you have to wonder, at this point, if it will ever get to the point to be competitive. They bled open looks all around the court. It was way too easy for Utah to get to the rim or shoot wide open from 3. Thankfully, Utah’s lack of any type of perimeter firepower led to its demise. They were still confident from their 45% perimeter shooting 1st half, and attempted another 12 shots from beyond the arc, making just one of them. Some were BAD attempts as well, including missing the entirety of the rim. The defensive play was masked and bailed out by a terrible Utah perimeter offense when their strength is interior offense, but they were hell-bent on beating us with their terrible perimeter defense, against out terrible perimeter defense.

All in all, the Bears got lucky that Utah missed as many shots as they did and turned the ball over as much as they did. It wasn’t all luck though as the Utes, could not maintain their hot shooting after halftime, and the Bears found their shooting touch on offense. It’s clear this roster is built for scoring. Defense looks beyond optional at this point. If we’re going to play out the rest of the season to our strengths, we need to start pushing the tempo to beat teams and looking to outscore them drastically. Now, will we adopt that mentality? We’ve jumped to the 3rd best effective shooting team in the conference. Will Fox give up on his adamant philosophy of a grind it out type gameplan by limiting possessions despite attempting 3s at the #1 rate in the conference? We lead the conference in 3PT attempts by 21 attempts. Why not try something out for the back half of the season? We’ll find out this week.

Fun Anecdote: This one is for Larry who at a game last season yelled out, “REGRESS TO THE MEAN!!!!” followed by some colorful language to the opposing team. Thats exactly what happened to Utah yesterday, and I’m sure he would have been screaming that at the TV last night.