Cal men’s basketball look to right ship against struggling UCLA

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Priya Sundaresan/File

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While the Bears may be seeking a win to pull themselves out of the bottomless pit they’ve dug, they’re definitely headed to the wrong place. This weekend, the Cal men’s basketball team (7-13, 1-6) flies down to Southern California for a two-game tour and a chance at redemption. The first matchup is against UCLA (13-7, 4-4), a team the Bears haven’t beat at Pauley Pavilion since 2010.

Cal faced off against the Bruins earlier this month, falling in a devastating 107-84 loss — the most points that the Bears have allowed in game so far this season. Cal had trouble on offense, and despite an attempted second half comeback, its slow start kept it 23 points behind.

The Bears extended their losing streak to six last week after a relatively close loss against then-No. 16 Arizona State. Cal now seems to be permanently glued the bottom of the Pac-12 table, and any chance at recovery looks far out of reach.

Cal, however, isn’t the only team who has had a recent stroke of bad luck. The Bruins started conference play hot, winning four out of five games with the only loss coming in double-overtime against Stanford. But after losing three matchups in a row — all by less than 10 points — UCLA has dropped to fifth place in the conference and is in need of a quick pick-me-up.

UCLA has kept its core five relatively consistent, with junior Aaron Holiday, freshman Kris Wilkes, senior Thomas Welsh and senior Gyorgy Goloman leading the way on a nightly basis. Holiday has made a strong impact this season, as he averages 18.8 points per game — fifth in the Pac-12 and first on his team — as well as leading his team in assists, averaging 5.1 per game. In the last matchup between the two teams, Holiday totaled 21 points, becoming one of six Bruins to finish in double figures.

Wilkes and Welsh round out the offense, as they average 13.8 and 12.9 points per game, respectively. Welsh is also impressive with rebounds, averaging a team-high 10.8 per game. The Bruins lead the Pac-12 in rebounding offense, averaging 39.5 boards per game; they also come in second in scoring offense, averaging 83.3 points per game.

UCLA’s ability to shoot from all over the court overstretched Cal’s defense earlier this month, and the Bears’ continuing struggles on offense didn’t help.

Not everything about the team, however, is disappointing.

Cal is first in the Pac-12 in offensive rebound percentage, with senior Marcus Lee leading the conference in offensive boards, averaging 3.2 per game.

The Bears are also second in the conference for blocked shots with 106 — senior Kingsley Okoroh and Lee average 2.2 and 2.0 per game, respectively — and steals with 141. Freshman Justice Sueing claims the latter for himself, averaging 1.8 swipes per game and ranking third in the Pac-12.

This is by far the longest downhill skid of the season for Cal, and if recent history is any indicator, it doesn’t look like it will end anytime soon. While a win may seem out of reach, the Bears have proven that even in the most unlikely of circumstances (see: Stanford), nothing is impossible.

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