Some teams might thrive in unfriendly arenas, but Cal men’s basketball has an away court disadvantage as the Bears’ road woes continued this weekend and the men’s basketball team finished its Los Angeles road trip 0-2. The final game at UCLA was an offensive disaster as the Bruins defeated the Bears 50-40.
After the Bears had a hopeful 2-1 start to the Pac-12 season that included consecutive home wins against Washington and Washington State, Cal was looking to snap its nine-game losing streak away from Berkeley that extends from last season.
Cal was hoping to bounce back at UCLA after coming off of an 88-56 beat down by USC a few days before. Against the Trojans, however, the Bears were dominated by stellar 3-point shooting that never gave them much of a chance. Against the Bruins, on the other hand, the game appeared to be a competition of who could miss more shots.
Matt Bradley once again led the team in scoring with 17 points on 7-15 shooting. The rest of the starters combined for 6 points in 63 minutes and everyone not named Bradley shot 10-41 from the field.
In the first half, Cal rarely attacked the rim and instead relied on poorly executed jump shots that seldom went in the basket. For a nearly 13-minute stretch in the first half, the Bears missed nine consecutive jumpers before Bradley ended the drought with a turnaround two. For the entire first period, Cal did not attempt a single free throw as a result of its inability to draw fouls from drives to the basket.
Despite only scoring 21 in the first half, the Bears kept themselves in the game with 9 offensive rebounds to extend possessions. This coupled with the Bears’ 9 forced turnovers led to the Bruins shooting relatively well but failing to get many shots off as they headed to the locker room with 22 points and a narrow lead.
Cal started the second period with a better game plan. Lars Thiemann layed it in to give the Bears their first lead since the score was 3-2, and, despite a turnover and follow-up basket from the Bruins, Grant Anticevich continued the plan of attack and retook the lead for Cal with another layup.
Then, in characteristic Cal fashion, it collapsed and UCLA took control of the game. Chris Smith led his team on a 14-0 run to put the game out of reach for the Bears. Smith finished the game with 17 points on 7-9 shooting and also grabbed 8 rebounds.
During the run, Cal reverted to its first-half ways and missed 13 jump shots in a row while only attempting two layups. UCLA’s ability to defend the rim was too much for the Bears to handle and was ultimately the final nail in the coffin.
Cal matched up well with UCLA, but simply could not get shots to fall. They finished the game shooting 30% from the field and less than 18% from three. It is nearly impossible to win a basketball game scoring only 40 points, and therefore much of the focus for the Bears going forward should be on scoring. The poor-shooting performance resulted in the least points scored for Cal in the last 10 years.
Early season problems were more fundamental — rebounding and limiting turnovers. Cal has been improving in these areas and has proven that against UCLA and USC on this road trip. Now the Bears need to revitalize their offense and not rely so much on Bradley because 40 points are just not enough.
Trilok Reddy covers men’s basketball. Contact him at