There is nothing worse than coming down from a high. Going from the feeling that anything is possible all the way back down to the reality of the world isn’t fun for anyone.
And for the Cal men’s basketball team Wednesday that’s exactly what happened. A 73-64 loss to Utah on the road brought the Bears down from the excitement and rumbling that had accompanied their upset over then-No. 12 Arizona on Saturday. The win had allowed Cal (14-7, 4-4 Pac-12) the rare feeling of being able to get by without senior guard Tyrone Wallace for the majority of its Pac-12 season.
But with the results of the team’s most recent matchup, notwithstanding freshman forward Jaylen Brown’s game-high 27 points, the Bears are left once again to figure out if their offense has the ability to keep up with the top Pac-12 teams that they still have to face.
Next up: Colorado.
The Buffaloes (16-5, 5-3) are coming into the game off of a dominating victory over Stanford, 91-75, which saw two of the team’s top three leading scorers, guards George King and Josh Fortune, each make five threes and score more than 20 points apiece. In the game, Colorado shot a total of 68.4 percent from behind the arc and 77.4 percent from the free-throw line.
With the Buffaloes putting up this many points against a Cardinal team that limited the Bears to 71 points in a Stanford win Jan. 14, it certainly is a cause for concern that Cal will be able to match what Colorado can put up. The Buffaloes are currently averaging 79.3 points per game and have allowed opponents an average of 70.6.
The Bears fall somewhat in between, only scoring an average of 74.9 points a game. But in the squads’ first matchup this year at Haas Pavilion on New Year’s Day, Cal managed to hold the Buffaloes to just 65 points in a 14-point loss for the visiting team. This was in Berkeley though, a place where the Bears are still undefeated. The only way that this level of success can be duplicated for this Cal team is if they somehow replicate the defensive performance they put on display in that opening game in January and not the one they showed Wednesday.
“We’ve got to do a better job of moving our feet and being solid defensively,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin following the Utah game. “We have to do a better job of not giving up and one play, big plays, and moving your feet, keeping guys in front of you. In this case, I think our fours in our rotation on that weak side didn’t do a good job of that.”
What the Bears did do well against Colorado the first time was holding the team’s leading scorer, forward Josh Scott, to 16 points, below his average of 17.3 per game and keeping Fortune and King to less than 10 points each.
Not only will Cal need to hold these players from finding success all over the court, but junior guard Jordan Mathews will also need to have a performance similar to his game the first time around, when he scored five threes of his own.
The Bears will come out of this game with the win if junior guard Sam Singer is able to assist the team in finding more rhythm on offense and if they can stay away from foul trouble. Holding the Buffaloes on defense wouldn’t hurt, either.
It might just find Cal their first Pac-12 win on the road.