Cal men’s basketball enters final stretch of regular season

Anne Maguire/Staff

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The season that everyone will try to forget is finally coming to a close. With record-breaking lows and atrocious performances by upper- and lowerclassmen alike, the end will only provide sweet relief from the incessant embarrassment. The only thing standing in the way for the Cal men’s basketball team? An Arizona road trip.

In its last attempts to save some dignity in the regular season, Cal (8-21, 2-14) will head south to face Arizona State (19-9, 7-9) on Thursday before meeting No. 19 Arizona, the top team in the Pac-12.

In the last matchup between the Bears and the Sun Devils, the latter was No. 16 in the nation. Cal’s touch-and-go offense in the first half left it in a deep hole as it headed into the second half.

Despite the team’s dismal offensive performance as a whole — the Bears only shot 25 percent from the field in the first half — senior Marcus Lee and freshman Darius McNeill managed to stand out, putting up 23 and 16 points, respectively.

Arizona State has been one of the top offenses in the conference this season. The Sun Devils may be more than the Bears can handle on defense, as they shoot 46.3 percent from the field and average 83.5 points per game.

Seniors Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II, who combine to average just more than 35 points per game, lead Arizona State on offense. Holder currently ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game. Holder is also a master marksman, hitting 38.1 percent of his 3-pointers.

While the last three games resulted in losses for Arizona State, the duo showcased its shooting abilities as Evans dropped 25 points against Oregon while Holder put up 23 points against Oregon State.

Despite being an offensive powerhouse, the Sun Devils place ninth in the conference. This points to a problem in their defense — a defense that ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in points allowed. But because Cal lacks any offensive drive, save for a standout performance by Sueing or Lee, Arizona State shouldn’t worry too much about the holes in its defense.

Cal, on the other hand, averages around 69.0 points per game. Most of its points come from freshman Justice Sueing, the Bears’ only consistent offensive threat.

Despite their best efforts, Cal and head coach Wyking Jones have yet to find a secondary star in any of the players. Sueing has done well throughout the season, but relying on him to carry the team in every game is unreasonable. Without a double threat on offense, the Bears will only continue their downward spiral.

At this point in the season, Cal has less than nothing to lose. Along with Washington State, it is one of two teams with an overall losing record in the conference, and the Cougars beat them last week.

Switching things up and trying something new is almost guaranteed to benefit Cal, as nothing it has done so far has turned its season around. And who knows? When the Bears head down to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 tournament, maybe they’ll find some magic.

Sophie Durham covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].