For the Cal men’s basketball team, the start of Pac-12 play has been anything but predictable. After notching two double-digit wins at home to kick off the conference season, the Bears (12-6, 2-3 Pac-12) have since registered three straight losses — raising questions about where they will ultimately stand in a conference that has been as chaotic as any in the nation.
But while uncertainty has plagued Cal in its first three weeks of play, it is arguably the squad’s six days off that have generated the most concern for the team.
As the Bears prepare to take on the two Arizona programs at Haas Pavilion in the coming days, they must do so without senior guard Tyrone Wallace. The veteran player for Cal is expected to be out for four to six weeks after sustaining a wrist injury during practice Jan. 16.
“As a team, hate to see anyone get hurt, especially (Wallace),” said guard Sam Singer. “We see how much effort and energy he puts into us every day.”
Wallace’s absence will spell immediate change to Cal’s starting lineup. The guard had started all 18 matchups this season, averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Wallace also leads the team in scoring with 15.4 points per game, as well as assists with 4.6 per contest. Without the team’s go-to distributor and playmaker, the Bears lose a key piece on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Attempting to replace that production for Cal will be Singer, who as backup for Wallace, has averaged 19 minutes and just 4.1 points for the Bears. In recent games, however, the junior point guard has played a larger role than usual — logging 27 minutes against Oregon State and 29 minutes against Stanford. Singer’s numbers will go up in the coming days, as should now-backup guard Brandon Chauca’s.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for (Singer),” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. “I think he’s ready to go.”
The Bears’ adjusted lineup will get its first chance to prove itself Thursday night against Arizona State (11-7, 1-4 Pac-12). The Sun Devils have struggled in conference play, picking up just one win over a struggling Washington State squad, but boast an experienced roster that had the talent to take down now-No. 10 Texas A&M.
“They’re good,” Singer said. “They’ve got a lot of guys who are really athletic and they can score the ball and present some challenges.”
If Cal is going to put an end to its losing streak, it will need to not only adjust to its modified lineup quickly, but also address some of the most glaring issues it faced on the road against teams that figured to be inferior at the beginning of conference play. While the Bears’ opponents have averaged 11.33 turnovers per game over their past three contests, Cal has also committed more than 16 turnovers per game itself.
“When you’re shooting free throws and you’re not even at 60 percent clip on the road — and again, 49 turnovers in three games — that is hard to win games, even at home,” Martin said.
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]