Cal men’s basketball looks to hand San Diego State 1st home loss of season

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Lianne Frick/File

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Only nine games into the season, the Cal men’s basketball team (3-6) finds itself in a  downward spiral. Despite a few sporadic wins and outstanding performances, the Bears have struggled on both ends of the floor. Cal’s next challenger is San Diego State (7-2), a team that has yet to lose a game at home, and the Bears will have to tidy up their mistakes if they want a chance at beating the Aztecs.

Cal has lost the last four games against San Diego State, with the most recent win in the series coming in 2007, when Ryan Anderson — a sophomore at the time — posted 23 points. The last time these two teams faced off was last season, when the Bears lost 77-65. Cal alumnus Ivan Rabb made his season debut and put up 19 points, leaving an empty spot in the team that is still waiting to be filled. Then-junior Kingsley Okoroh put up nine rebounds, six points and three blocks in 20 minutes.

In contrast to Cal’s struggles, San Diego State has had an impressive start to the season, led by junior Devin Watson’s 14.7 points per game. Senior Malik Pope is following in Watson’s footsteps, leading the team in shooting percentage with a mark of 54 percentage along with a team-high of 6.9 rebounds per games.

The Aztecs have at least two players recovering from injuries, including junior Max Montana and senior Trey Kell. Montana has only played in three games this season, but he left a lasting impression after hitting four 3-pointers in the first half against Arizona State. After only getting a few minutes of play in San Diego State’s last game, Montana is looking to make a reappearance against Cal.

Kell started all seven of the games he played in before an ankle injury and put up a solid performance. The guard averages the second-most points per game on the Aztecs with  13.6 points per game and the second-highest 3-point percentage at 42 percent. With Kell potentially out, the Aztecs will look to their bench to make up for his production.

Should the Bears have a chance of upsetting the Aztecs, they’ll have to address their lackluster defense. Despite two good defensive performances against St. Mary’s and California State University, Northridge, Cal arguably had its worst defensive performance against Central Arkansas, allowing 96 points. This is the third time the Bears have allowed 90 points in only nine games.

The Bears have been struggling with turnovers since the start of the season as well. In its first game against UC Riverside, Cal only had 11 turnovers, now tied for its lowest of the season. In the loss against Central Arkansas, however, the Bears totalled 22 turnovers, the high of the season. Now averaging 15.5 turnovers per game, the Bears are in dire need of a change.

Aside from turnovers, Cal’s main struggle is the lack of a consistent work ethic from everyone on the court. While one or two players may shine each game, what the Bears need is a great performance from everyone. If Cal can’t change its ways, the team might be in for a long season.

Sophie Durham covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].