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Cal men's basketball looks to right ship against Arizona State

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JANUARY 22, 2015

After an eight-day layoff, the Cal men’s basketball team (11-7, 1-4 Pac-12) will host Arizona State (9-9, 1-4 Pac-12) at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night. The Bears will look to right the ship after falling in their last four conference games, which they have lost by an average of 11.5 points.

“When you hit adversity, that’s when you start to grow and that’s when you learn who you are as a team, how you fight through things,” said head coach Cuonzo Martin. “In the process, you want to get better. I think that’s the biggest key. Every situation is different.”

Cal began the year with a surprising 10-2 record, including a 73-59 rout of Syracuse in late November. A disconcerting 55-52 loss to CSU Bakersfield — owners of a dismal 5-13 record — however, has prompted a late December swoon, with the Bears dropping six of their last seven contests. Cal has recorded just one conference victory this season, a narrow 81-75 win over Washington.

“A lot of toughness is not necessarily physical all the time; it’s the mental part. I just think it’s a matter of going through it,” Martin said. “Everyone has some toughness; it’s a matter of reaching for it when you need it the most.”

Cal has been led by sophomore guard Jordan Mathews, who currently ranks second in the Pac-12 with an average of 21 points per game and is leading the conference with 19 made 3-pointers. Junior guard Tyrone Wallace, who has been running point for the Bears this year, won Pac-12 Player of the Week honors twice but has averaged just over 11 points during Cal’s four-game losing streak. Still, despite a recent slump of sorts, Wallace is third in the Pac-12 with 17.9 points per game and fourth in the league in rebounds with 8. Joining Mathews and Wallace in the starting lineup is senior forward David Kravish, who is one block away from tying the program record of 207.

Thursday’s matchup with the Sun Devils will mark sophomore guard Jabari Bird’s third game since he returned from missing 10 games with a foot injury. Bird logged only eight minutes against the Bruins and contributed eight points against Stanford last Wednesday. Cal averaged nearly 75 points in the first six games with Bird in the lineup, compared to just over 64.3 without Bird.

“We had just enough to keep our parts intact, to have success. A key part like that goes down and all of a sudden other guys are asked to do things they’re not consistently doing,” Martin said. “That becomes tough. You had guys thrust into certain roles they weren’t ready for at the particular time.

The Bears will be facing a Sun Devil squad that earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 2009. Arizona State snapped its own four-game losing streak with a 78-72 home win against Colorado last Saturday, their first conference victory of 2015. The Sun Devils are currently fourth in the Pac-12 in three-point field goal percentage.

Arizona State has spent much of the season compensating for the loss of its veteran contributors, including floor general Jahii Carson and center Jordan Bachynski. Without Carson, Bachynski and guard Jermaine Marshall, Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek has turned to forwards Shaquielle McKissic and Jonathan Gilling to guide his team. McKissic — the team’s leading scorer — has become Arizona State’s best perimeter defender and notched 16 points against the Buffaloes.

“They had a lot of close losses. They play well as a team,” Martin said. “Coach Sendek does a tremendous job.”

Contact Michelle Lee at 

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JANUARY 22, 2015


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