When the clock is winding down and a game is still close, athletes tend to experience an extreme rush of adrenaline — a push of energy and fortitude that carries players through the most anxiety-inducing moments. Sometimes, those adrenaline highs can carry from one game into the next — indeed, some win streaks can be carried largely by adrenaline alone.
The Cal men’s basketball team (5-6) is undoubtedly still riding the highs from its previous two tight wins, with the hopes that the energy produced can lead to a third straight victory against Seattle (8-5).
Against Cal State Fullerton, the Bears saw huge offensive performances from freshman Darius McNeill and junior Don Coleman, who scored 30 and 26 points, respectively, in Cal’s overtime win. McNeill has continued to improve vastly beyond the arc for the Bears, knocking down six of the 10 shots from downtown in Cal’s last two games.
McNeill and Coleman, along with freshman Justice Sueing and seniors Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh, are going to have to continue to produce offensively if they want to build a true win streak.
Okoroh and Lee have had their ups and downs throughout the course of the Bears’ season, but they have recently found more success when Cal opts for a smaller lineup and plays one of them on the court at a time.
The Seattle defense has allowed just 73.6 points per game and is apt at thwarting its opponents from the three-point range. Cal, which has improved from long range as its season has continued, must focus on its off-ball movement and offensive ball rotation if it wants to continue to find looks from long range.
Defensively, Cal must be cognizant of the Redhawks’ two star players — redshirt sophomore Matej Kavas and graduate student Jordan Hill, both guards. Kavas and Hill are Seattle’s two leading scorers, averaging 18.3 and 14.0 points per game, respectively.
In order to quell Hill’s offensive explosiveness, the Bears should play a man-to-man defense with Sueing on the Redhawks’ star. While the Bears have opted for a zone defense for much of the season, it would likely prove ineffective against the explosive and flexible duo of Kavas and Hill.
A transfer from Wisconsin, Hill is extremely comfortable with high-caliber basketball, having played considerable minutes for a Badgers team that lost in the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament. This makes him particularly dangerous for a Cal team that is composed largely of young guards.
In the paint, Seattle boasts 7’3” center redshirt junior Aaron Menzies, who averages 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Menzies will be a handful for big men Lee and Okoroh, who haven’t seen a center of that size all season. The two will have to figure out what the most effective form of defense will be against Menzies — either fronting to prevent the pass inside or holding their ground once the inlet pass is made — in order to limit Seattle’s points in the paint.
With two recent hard-fought wins under their belts, the Bears have shown that when it comes down to crunch time, they can do what is necessary to pull out a victory. Against the Redhawks, Cal will try to show that those wins weren’t merely due to last-minute luck, and with Pac-12 conference games approaching, it’s of the utmost importance that the Bears solidify their worth.
Sophie Goethals covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]