It was a problem that the Cal men’s basketball team found a way to sweep under the rug against Wofford, and it was a problem that was at the forefront of the team blowing an 18-point lead to No. 6 Wichita State. The Bears’ turnover problem has began to snowball in their past couple games, costing the group opportunities on both offense and defense. Against VCU (3-2) in the second game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, the problem reared its ugly head once more as Cal (2-3) committed 18 turnovers in its 83-69 loss.
With 18 turnovers in the loss, the Bears have now turned the ball over more than 16 times in four of their first five games — the lone exception being the squad’s opening night loss to UC Riverside, when it only had 11. Cal may have been able to escape with wins despite high turnover totals, but on a relatively cold afternoon shooting the ball and with the Rams draining 50 percent of their shots from the field, the Bears needed every shot they could get. With each turnover, more points were left on the table.
Senior Marcus Lee recorded the first Cal turnover in the first possession of the game, setting the tone for Cal’s afternoon. The Bears would accumulate five turnovers in a little more than five minutes into the contest, and the Rams would jump out into a commanding 18-6 lead. VCU’s lead would only grow from there, as its stifling defense fed into an offense which loved to get out and run.
“As a team, we came out slow, lackadaisical, and we just wanted to play all our men, all our leaders,” Lee said. “We had to get our team ready to play and focus all the way through.”
Excluding freshman Justice Sueing, who didn’t contribute to the avalanche of turnovers, Cal’s starting five recorded 14 of the team’s turnovers. Lee, who piled up seven turnovers against Wofford, had another sloppy game in terms of handling the ball, ending his afternoon with six. Through five games, the senior is averaging 3.8 turnovers per game on the season. Freshman Darius McNeill and junior Don Coleman had three apiece as well.
“We came here to Maui to see tested and see where we were at,” Lee said. “We’ve seen where we can be absolutely great at times, and we see where we let off the gas. We know we need to be A-1 every step of the way, because we know if we do everything right, we have a chance at winning.”
Coleman recorded buckets in bunches once again with 21, but it was VCU’s sophomore guard De’Riante Jenkins who stole the show on offense. In just his fifth career start, Jenkins torched Cal’s defense, dropping a career-high 27 points on 11 of 15 shooting from the field. By the first half’s end, Jenkins had already made 16 points, eclipsing his previous best of 15. One of Jenkins’ five triples on the afternoon may as well have been the nail in the coffin, as the guard hit a pull-up buzzer-beating three-pointer in transition to end the first half and put the Rams up 55-29.
“He got into a comfort zone, and we knew his potential to shoot the ball like that. We just gave him too many looks,” said Cal head coach Wyking Jones.