After recording a lethargic 78-76 double overtime victory over Montana, the Cal men’s basketball team (6-1) will hope to remedy its sloppiness against Nevada (2-5) on Sunday afternoon in Nevada.
Without an injured Jabari Bird, guard Sam Singer got the first starting nod of his career and notched four personal fouls with only seven points. With Singer struggling, freshman guard Brandon Chauca made his college debut and notched eight points and six assists in 41 minutes. Wednesday’s contest was Chauca’s first game with the Bears after being cleared to participate in team activities by the NCAA last week.
“Brandon is a competitor. He’s just one of those guys,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. “He drives the ball. I thought he played well for his first game.”
The most prominent storyline out of Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night was Cal’s carelessness with the ball. The Bears tallied a whopping 22 turnovers against the Grizzlies, securing a win only by the skin of their teeth.
“We average 10 a game, and now we had 22 this game,” Martin said. “Montana did a good job with pressing, but we were not strong with the ball. I thought Montana did a great job with being physical but not fouling. I give them credit for that.”
The Bears likely won’t be able to depend on a miraculous Jordan Mathews’ 3-pointer to save them two games in a row, despite facing a struggling Wolf Pack team. Nevada holds the third-worst record in the middling Mountain West Conference and will be facing Cal after five games on the road.
After beginning the season with two wins at home, the Wolf Pack has lost five games in a row, losing each by an average of 11 points. Nevada, whose stagnant offense is averaging 59 points per game so far, is led by senior guard Michael Perez, who will be making his 40th consecutive start Sunday. The rest of the starting lineup consists of guards Marqueze Coleman and D.J. Fenner and forwards A.J. West and Kaileb Rodriguez. Fenner currently leads the team in average points per game, with an 11.6 clip.
The Wolf Pack are reeling from a 68-57 loss to Long Beach State, which saw Nevada commit 19 turnovers after racking up 20 in its previous game. Against the 49ers, the Wolf Pack shot 32 percent from the field, their worst mark of the season, and has now failed to hit the 60-point benchmark in their last four contests.
The glaring question for Sunday will be how Cal continues to adapt without the presence of Bird, a respected scoring threat on the wing who may miss his second consecutive game due to his foot injury. Bird is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 11.7 points.
“The tough thing about this situation is if he were out two weeks before, we would have time,” Martin said. “Then, all of a sudden, the defense might collapse a little bit more because the lack of his presence. So, just losing that is an adjustment.”