One game into the new season and Cal men’s basketball is already on the wrong side of history as the Bears fell to Yale, 76-59, in the annual Pac-12 China Game on Friday evening.
That aforementioned history? Cal becomes the first team in its conference to lose the Pac-12 China Game since its inception three years ago.
Redshirt junior Paris Austin’s game-high 18 points in his Bears debut weren’t close to being enough to resuscitate a lifeless offense, one that shot 35.3 percent from the field and totaled 16 turnovers.
Cal had its opportunities; the team shot 32 free throws and forced Yale to turn the ball over 19 times, but those gimmes just did not translate on the scoreboard.
Returning sophomores Justice Sueing and Darius McNeill were all but invisible.
Sueing’s nine points, six rebounds and two assists do little to mask his atrocious three of 14 shooting night. As for McNeill, he couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting zero of eight from the field, and his lone two points came at the foul line.
The Bears’ newcomers provided a glimmer of hope on an otherwise morbid night. Along with Austin, freshman Matt Bradley added in 13 points, while fellow freshman Andre Kelly hauled in 10 rebounds along with seven points.
“I found us going one-on-one too much and not executing the play to completion,” said head coach Wyking Jones. They found a very good rhythm in sharing the ball and running their plays all the way through. We have to do a better job of that. We have to trust each other. We have to continue to trust each other more on the offensive end.”
Cal’s lone lead of the day came at the midway point of the first half when Austin nailed a jumper, giving his team a 9-8 lead.
After that jumper, the Bears went scoreless for four minutes, and the Bulldogs rattled off a 20-2 run, 15 of those points coming unanswered.
Cal trailed by as much as 17 in the first half but managed to cut the deficit to 12 points by halftime. The Bears sputtered into the second half having only posted 21 points. Sueing, the leading scorer for Cal among returners, put up a bagel in the opening half.
The avalanche only continued as the second half rolled along. Sueing emerged from his slumber, and Austin dropped in 10 points, but Yale’s lead ballooned to as much as 20 points.
In many ways, this blowout of a basketball game was a continuation of the atrocity that was last season.
Cal’s offense looked just as broken, as possessions devolved into isolation drives and hero ball. That incoherent basketball led to another high giveaway night, as the Bears served up 16 turnovers hot and ready to the Bulldogs.
Three-point woes reared their ugly head once again. On offense, Cal only hit two of its 10 attempts. On defense, Yale’s sharpshooters feasted, splashing home nine of 21 threes.
The pièce de résistance was an inability to string together two halves of basketball. Cal played relatively well in the second half, shooting 13 of 26 from the field, but an opportunity to be in the game was nixed with a first half that saw the team shoot five of 25.
There’s a whole season’s worth of evidence that proves this combination of deficiencies will lead to a losing season. Should Jones and the Bears fail to make these corrections, the basement of the Pac-12 may just be in their fortunes yet again.