Cal men’s basketball set to face falling Arizona in Tucson

Basketball player dribbles ball.
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Those still following Cal men’s basketball’s 2018-19 season have a threshold for blandness like no other. The Bears, who are winless in conference play and just recorded their 14th straight loss after falling to USC, bring an uncomfortable level of pitiful consistency, thoroughly devoid of lasting excitement, to each game.

A combination of a struggling offense, questionable defense, echoed talk of a youthful roster, short-lived glimpses of promise and, of course, the repetitive L’s, yields an undesirable familiarity game in and game out. But this Thursday, Cal will have another opportunity to bring some spice to a flavorless season as it takes on Arizona in the Wildcats’ territory.

Unlike Cal, Arizona has seen its share of unexpected events in the past few weeks. But like Cal, the results of recent happenings haven’t been for the best.

The Wildcats (14-12, 5-8) were second in the Pac-12 just a few weeks ago, but a seven-game losing streak propelled Arizona to the depths of the conference standings, just above Washington State and Cal. Once formidable, the Wildcats are no longer the team to beat but, instead, just another struggling team in this conference of champions.

In Arizona’s home matchup against Washington State, the team shot 26 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from the line in the first half. Despite a more promising second half, Arizona fell 69-55 to complete the Cougars’ desert sweep and mark a new low for the Wildcats’ program.

Although Arizona’s shooting improved, the team still fell to its last two opponents on the road — Utah and Colorado. The Wildcats had only surrendered two of the team’s’ past 14 matchups with the Buffs, making the 7-point loss all the harder to take and all the more meaningful.

Sophomore guard Brandon Randolph leads Arizona with an average of 13.4 points per game, but even Randolph has been struggling over the past month.

Prior to the Wildcats’ game against Washington, Randolph was shooting 40.6 percent from the field. But ever since the team fell to Washington, Randolph has shot 22.2 percent from the field. Not helping Arizona’s case, Randolph has also dropped in his consistency at the line — shots that shouldn’t vary from game to game.

A key component of the Wildcats’ spiral is missing guard Brandon Williams. Williams hasn’t played in the past five games, as he injured his knee against UCLA nearly a month ago.

Throughout the first stretch of conference play, Williams was shooting 40 percent from behind the arc, 80 percent from the line and averaging 3.5 assists per game.

Arizona’s win-loss ratio is the worst the team has seen in 36 years, and its seven-game losing streak is the longest since that fateful 1983-84 season. The Wildcats will be more than eager to end their winless drought and taste a win, but those feelings are all too common for the Bears.

Thursday night’s showdown will not just be a test of skill or ability. The desire for a win — and all the feelings that come with it — will certainly play a factor in how things unfold.

Surina Khurana covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @surina_k.