Cal men’s basketball’s offense decimated by Washington’s zone in 71-52 loss

Related Posts

Hope is a dangerous thing. Against Washington, Cal men’s basketball found that out firsthand.

Against head coach Mike Hopkins’ Huskies and their infamously suffocating zone defense, the Bears were the subjects of a start-to-finish defensive clinic, totaling a season low in points in a torturous 71-52 loss.

“We battled tonight; we just couldn’t hit a shot,” said Cal head coach Wyking Jones. “We started the game out getting stops, getting out in transition. I was happy to see that, but we really struggled against their half-court set.”

Due in large part to Washington’s snail’s-pace start on offense, Cal found itself ahead for much of the first half, leading by as many as 10 points. The Huskies couldn’t buy a bucket to save their lives, missing 10 of their first 11 3-point attempts.

After racking enough bricks to rebuild Hec Edmundson Pavilion several times over, shots began to fall for Washington, and they fell in bunches. Beginning with a 3-pointer from senior point guard David Crisp, the Huskies outscored the Bears, 16-5, in the last five minutes of the half.

Crisp may have begun the avalanche, but it was senior sniper Dominic Green who led the early comeback. Green may not have been donning his famous Pinnacle 6s, rocking a more modest pair of Space Jams, but the sharpshooter was shining just as bright, knocking down three monumental 3-pointers to lead the run.

These late runs have haunted Cal on multiple occasions, and Jones is cognizant of that issue, noting that his team will “start off strong, and then teams will settle in.”

With their hands still smoking from the run to close out the first half, the Huskies controlled the game from the second-half buzzer onward. No longer able to fall back on Washington’s cold shooting, Cal was outscored, 42-24, in the second half.

“In the second half, they did a better job getting back in transition,” Jones said. “I’m pretty sure they made that an emphasis at halftime.”

This may not have been the worst loss of the season in terms of margin of defeat, but from the perspective of offensive functionality, this Washington dismemberment of Cal’s game plan takes the cake.

The numbers are as appalling as they are shocking. In addition to the season low in points, the Bears shot 30.5 percent from the field and only hit one of 15 3-point attempts. Even at the free-throw line, this usually steady bunch only hit 15 of 23 freebies.

52 points is not only a season low, but the third-fewest total points in the Wyking Jones era. Coincidentally, the second fewest (51) also came against Washington.

Sophomore Justice Sueing, Cal’s leading scorer, shot two of 11. Freshman Matt Bradley, in his first appearance at Washington, went zero of 10. Junior Roman Davis, making his first career start, went one of six.

The Bears’ lone bright spot came in the form of freshman Andre Kelly. The forward snapped a six-game streak in which he failed to crack double figures with a team-high 14 points off the bench on an efficient six of eight shooting.

Redshirt junior Paris Austin had a fine game as well, totaling 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a career-high five steals.

At the center of the Bears’ frustration was none other than the Huskies’ senior Matisse Thybulle. For the defensive stalwart and the heart of Hopkins’ zone defense, this was just another day at the office, racking up five blocks and two steals in addition to 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Most of Thybulle’s blocks came in the high post, otherwise known as the “soft spot” of the 2-3 zone. When unsuspecting Bears went up for what appeared to be an open midrange jumper, Thybulle and his long arms would come out of nowhere to reject the shot.

Curiously enough, Cal freshman Connor Vanover, someone who would have an easier time getting an entry pass and shooting over a zone because of his length, played a season-low three minutes after starting the previous four games.

“Connor’s great on the offensive end, we just got to get more out of him on the defensive end,” Jones said.

Justice delos Santos covers men’s basketball. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos.