“This is one of the games you’re really worried about,” said head coach Mark Fox, following Cal’s win against Fresno State.
The Bears’ 65-57 win against the Bulldogs brought them much-needed relief.
While the Bulldogs haven’t played the stiffest competition, they came into the matchup with the most momentum they’ve had in years. Before losing to Cal, Fresno State had a perfect 5-0 record, a stark contrast from the combined 23-31 record of their previous two seasons.
As predicted, the Bulldogs leaned heavily on their 7’0” forward Orlando Robinson. Robinson played for 38 out of 40 minutes and filled the stat sheet: 25 points on 9-16 shooting, nine rebounds, four blocks, four assists and even a scrappy steal.
At face value, Robinson’s 9-16 shooting figure might indicate that Cal didn’t do a great job of guarding him. Yet, a deeper dive into the numbers depicts a different story.
Coming into the matchup, Robinson only shot 33.3% from downtown on the season. Thus, for the blue and gold to come out of Haas with a win, they had to force the forward to settle for long jump shots.
Spoiler alert: Robinson settled.
The seven footer took seven 3-pointer attempts on the night, nearly the same amount of attempts that he had on the entire season. Playing off of Robinson was a wise gamble for the Bears, as Robinson canned just two triples from distance. Moreover, Robinson took less than 10 shots in the paint, which forced other players to contribute.
This strategy worked wonders for Cal. Fresno State’s next highest scorer had a measly 10 points on 4-13 shooting, and there wasn’t another player who registered double-digit points.
The blue and gold had a solid showing on the offensive end, with three players registering 13 points or more. Moreover, the Bears shot an impressive 7-16 from distance and 10-12 from the charity stripe.
Using defense as a form of offense is one of the most efficient ways for a team to come out on top, and that’s exactly what the blue and gold did. Cal registered 15 points off of turnovers while the Bulldogs could only convert four points from the Bears’ hiccups.
Another reason the blue and gold were able to come away with the victory was how effectively they crashed the boards and played persistent defense. Fresno State only had four offensive rebounds on the night and scored just once off of these rebounds.
“Playing defense without our hands … defending without fouling … we did a good job of that tonight,” said guard Jordan Shepherd.
Win or lose, every team can find something they can improve upon.
“I think we got to take better care of the ball,” Shepherd said.
The Bears had 11 turnovers against the Bulldogs, which is not an obscene amount, but it wouldn’t hurt if they could cut down on unforced turnovers.
Nevertheless, Cal exceeded expectations against Fresno, and it remained bearable to watch. This was one of their sharpest games of the season, and it will be important to build off of this win, as they have a tough opponent in Oregon State coming up.
The team seems to share this same sentiment.
“We played some good competition thus far, and we have been able to work on the things that we need to improve on as a team and I think we are really hitting our stride. We all feel ready on both ends of the floor to get into Pac-12 play,” said senior forward Grant Anticevich.
Actions speak louder than words, and Cal fans will hope that the Bears’ optimism translates into solid performances in their upcoming games.
Justin Kim covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].