After a tough three-loss performance in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational, Cal men’s basketball head coach Wyking Jones said he and his staff would have to go back to the drawing board in order to rectify the panoply of problems the Bears encountered. This Tuesday evening’s home matchup against California State University-Northridge will serve as a barometer to measure whether they’ve found the right combination of X’s and O’s to avoid future embarrassments .
The Matadors (1-4) — currently riding a four game-losing streak of their own — are in a similar position of searching for a recipe for winning. In those four losses, CSUN has been outscored by its opponents 311-270, seemingly unable to find consistent offensive productivity in any of those games.
The problem for the Bears, which has plagued them in nearly every game this season, will come in the form of the Matador’s aptitude from beyond the arc. The Bears have been consistently mediocre at defending against the 3-pointer, a problem that stems from poor rotation and closing out in Cal’s zone defense. CSUN shoots more than 40 percent from 3-point territory, which could prove to be exceedingly dangerous for the Bears.
The Matadors’ chief weapons from distance come in the form of guards senior Micheal Warren and freshman Terrell Gomez, who are shooting 46 and 59 percent from beyond the arc, respectively. Jones might have to play man defense and put freshmen Justice Sueing and Darius McNeill on these Matadors’ guards in order to effectively shut down CSUN’s outside game.
By the tenets of basic math a team must score 1.5 times the amount of normal baskets for every 3-pointer that an opponent sinks. While this wouldn’t normally be a problem, it has become one for a Bears squad that has repeatedly wasted valuable scoring opportunities because of shoddy shot selection and poor finishing at the rim.
Jones’ offensive drawing board, if it has been effectively used, will focus on taking larger advantage of the Bears’ two big men — seniors Kingsley Okoroh and Marcus Lee — who went a combined two of nine from the field against Chaminade. While Lee and Okoroh both have to work on their composure down low, they also need to be given more scoring opportunities.
Up until now, Cal has relied heavily on junior guard Don Coleman, who averages 24 points per game, for their scoring. While Lee, Okoroh, Sueing and McNeill round out the next four top scoring spots for the Bears, there has yet to be a game in which all of them are offensively on at the same time. If Cal wants to pull off a vital win against CSUN, all four of those players are going to have to put up at least 10 points, which means the Bears can’t waste possessions as they have in the past.
While the phrase “going back to the drawing board” is spoken by nearly every coach in the midst of a tumultuous season, the implementation and subsequent success of that act is often highly varied. The Bears will be hoping that this won’t be an empty phrase, and that the adjustments made will be impactful ones in order to turn their season around and snap their losing streak.
Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]