With Ennio Morricone’s goosebump-inducing “The Ecstacy of Gold” playing in the background, Jay-Z rapped, “I will not lose, for even in defeat, there’s a valuable lesson learned, so it evens it up for me” — the message being one either wins or learns.
On a night when the Cal men’s basketball team’s offense contended with Salt Lake City’s weather over which could be colder, all the Bears could do when the final buzzer sounded was hope there was some glimmer of a lesson mixed in with all the darkness.
Cal’s 77-43 loss to Utah wasn’t just another blowout loss that exceeded 20 points — the team has suffered seven losses of that variety for those who are counting — but definitely its worst offensive performance of the season.
The Bears didn’t just record a season low in total points scored, but also a season low in field goal percentage with a grotesque figure of 30.2 percent, barely edging out the 30.6 percent they put up on opening night.
Life beyond the arc wasn’t any prettier either; Cal matched its season-high by jacking up 24 shots from three-point land but also matched its season-low by hitting them at a clip of 16.7 percent.
Cal has been susceptible to extended scoring droughts throughout the season, and its loss to Utah was no exception, with the offense going scoreless for a five minute-stretch in the first half and a six-minute stretch in the second half.
The only area of the Bears’ game which wasn’t unbearable was the turnover department, as they only racked up 16 — a few ticks above their season average of 15.1 a night. At that, Cal still ranks dead last in turnovers among its Pac-12 contemporaries.
Perhaps the goal of the offense in coming games will be to delegate a bit of the responsibility from freshmen Darius McNeill and Justice Sueing, the only two Bears to average more than 30 minutes per game in Pac-12 play.
Sueing and McNeil once again hit this minutes plateau, playing 34 and 33 minutes, respectively, but were especially indicative of how bad the offense functioned.
The freshman duo combined for a mere 18 points on 7 of 24 shooting from the field. Sueing and McNeill were especially trigger happy from beyond the arc, but they only connected on 3 of 14 attempts.
McNeill’s individual performance wasn’t particularly impressive, but his 10 points on the night extends a personal streak to three games in which he’s touched double digits in points scored.
The freshman guard hasn’t been shooting well during these three ball games, hitting shots from the field at a clip of 33.3 percent, but it’s a step in the right direction from how he’s played against Pac-12 opponents.
Cal will have a week to recuperate before taking on a Stanford team hungry for revenge after the Cardinal gave up a 17-point lead to the Bears at Maples Pavilion.