In the midst of one of its worst seasons in recent memory, the Cal men’s basketball team essentially has two goals. With three key freshmen in Justice Sueing, Darius McNeill and Juhwan Harris-Dyson, the first goal is to develop and build for the long-term future.
The second goal, with postseason aspirations all but dashed, is to avoid becoming the first team in nearly 30 years to finish below .400. With yet another loss, that goal is slowly becoming more and more out of reach.
In their second matchup of the season against each other, USC (17-6, 8-2) once again decimated Cal (7-15, 1-8), this time by a score of 77-59.
The loss extends the Bears’ losing streak to eight and marks the first time Cal has dropped eight straight since the 1991-92 season. That 1991-92 campaign was also the last time the Bears finished with a sub-.400 record.
Cal has lost by an average margin of 17 points per game during this losing streak, the closest ballgame being an 8-point loss to then-No. 16 Arizona State.
Senior forward Marcus Lee had another fantastic ballgame, tying his career-high of 23 points along with 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season.
Sueing chipped in 14 points as well, eclipsing the double-digit mark in scoring for the ninth-consecutive ballgame. Since the beginning of conference play, Sueing is averaging 18.3 points per game which includes a trio of 20-point affairs.
Senior Nick Hamilton also dished out four assists, tying his career high. The silver linings of Cal’s 18-point loss, however, end there.
McNeill, whose shooting has been very shaky as of late, recorded a career-high seven turnovers while shooting 4 of 13 from the field. McNeill has yet to shoot more than 50 percent from the field in a game since beginning Pac-12 play.
Without junior Don Coleman, who did not play for a second consecutive game because of a violation of team rules, Cal’s bench was nearly non-existent once again.
Much to the tune of the team’s recent loss to UCLA, Cal was in the ballgame from the jump — a pleasant surprise, considering how the team has started ballgames slow for the majority of the season, but flopped in the end
The Bears found themselves ahead of the Trojans for a little more than ten minutes in the first half. While they couldn’t take that lead into the break, they only trailed by two at the end of the half.
Cal dipped back into its turnover-happy ways in the first half, giving the ball away 14 times in the first 20 minutes of regulation, but the team managed to stay in the game by shooting well when it got open looks and locking down USC’s offense.
Lee carried the team in the second half of play, scoring 17 of the Bears’ 30 points in the half, but the rest of Cal’s weapons sputtered.
In the latter 20 minutes, every Cal player not named Lee shot a dismal 3 of 23 from the field. McNeill especially lost his touch down the stretch, scoring only 4 points on eight shots after a hot start in the first half.
As the Bears’ offense disappeared, the Trojans awoke from its first half slumber and broke away for their sixth straight win. Senior guard Elijah Stewart scored all 16 of his points in the second half.
“The first half was promising,” said head coach Wyking Jones in a press release. “There were a few turnovers we could have scored on but we have to be able to put together a 40-min game.”