Cal men’s basketball embarrassed by Central Arkansas, 96-69

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A little more than four minutes into what would become a Wednesday-night massacre at Haas Pavilion, Central Arkansas’s (5-5) head coach Russ Pennell expressed unmistakable frustration during a media timeout, yelling at his team with a flaming fury and stomping his dress shoes on the hardwood.

At that point, the Cal men’s basketball team (3-6) led Central Arkansas, 10-5. Pennell’s violent vernacular must have struck a nerve with Central Arkansas, as his squad proceeded to run Cal out of its own building in an embarrassing 96-69 loss.

Cal’s newly integrated small-ball lineup had done an excellent job in its last two games of defending the 3-point line, but Central Arkansas found plenty of ways to get open looks at the bucket from beyond the arc en route to shooting 50 percent from three and 49 percent from the field.

In allowing 96 points, Cal has allowed 90+ points for the third time this season on the defensive end. Central Arkansas’ total is tied for the most points Cal has allowed all season.

While Cal’s offense was defined by stagnation and lack of ball movement, Central Arkansas beautifully executed their offensive sets, moving the rock like a hot potato around the perimeter and ending a majority of its possessions with a high-quality bucket.

This overall unselfishness was apparent in Central Arkansas’ scoring distribution, as nine different players scored. These Bears shot a blistering 48 percent in the first half of basketball and refined their formula to shoot an equally impressive 50 percent in the second half.

Leading the way for Central Arkansas was the senior duo of star Jordan Howard and Mathieu Kamba who combined for 49 points on 48 percent shooting, including a combined eight 3-pointers.

Howard arrived in the Bay Area following two subpar performances against Morehead State and Arkansas-Little Rock, but he got his swagger back with another lights-out performance against University of San Francisco. Howard’s offensive fireworks traveled across the Bay Bridge into Berkeley when the senior dropped a game-high 26 points, his eighth 20+ point performance of the young season.

Cal was no better on the offensive end of the floor. There’s no way to sugarcoat the Bears’ lackluster shooting night, and the team’s measly shooting percentage of 38 percent speaks for itself. By the end of the first half, Cal was shooting sub-30 percent as a team and a shooting percentage of 54 percent in the second half wasn’t enough to recover from a 20-point halftime deficit.

Cal couldn’t find any resemblance of offensive cohesion against Central Arkansas’ defense in what was the squad’s worst offensive performance of the season. Following a rough stretch in the first half of basketball, during which the Bears missed eight straight shots, the offense devolved into a hero ball of sorts. A majority of the Bears’ possessions would end in an ill-advised shot with very few passes in the mix.

With the few quality looks the Bears did have on offense, they were unable to convert. Senior Marcus Lee, the most physically imposing presence on the court, got more than a couple of quality looks down in the low-post, but he couldn’t convert a couple of jump hooks that came within five feet of the basket. Cal’s night offensively could best be summarized by the wide-open layup freshman Deschon Winston blew in the second half.

Rearing its ugly head once again on the offensive end of the floor was Cal’s turnover problem. Coming into this game, the Bears had done a much better job of taking care of the basketball, but they fell back into their old ways once again, finishing the game with 22 turnovers — the most the team has committed all season. Cal’s starting five accounted for 17 of those turnovers, with Lee committing six, the third time he’s done so this season.

After the game, Haas Pavilion’s fire alarm was tripped and the press conference was canceled.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510