Big Green come up short against Bears, Cal preps for Pacific

Photo of Cal men's basketball
Antonio Martin/Staff

Related Posts

Following an eight-day hiatus, the Bears took the court against the now 3-7 Dartmouth Big Green this Sunday, squeaking by with a 61-55 victory.

“You’re always concerned as a coach with the first game after exams,” said Cal head coach Mark Fox. “You’re just concerned about what kind of rhythm the team is going to be in and mentally, are we going to be sharp?”

Veterans Jordan Shepherd and Andre Kelly led the way for the Bears, combining for over half of the team’s buckets. Graduate guard Jordan Shepherd shot an inefficient 6-17 from the field, but his baskets were certainly timely, as he scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half to help the Bears pull away.

“To be honest, I don’t think we played well. We didn’t play how we’re capable of playing.” Shepherd said.

Shepherd wasn’t the only one with shooting struggles, as the blue and gold shot a combined 24-57 from the field as a team. While analytics have caused players to favor the 3-point shot, the analytics certainly don’t favor forced or contested 3-point shots. Many of the misses came from Cal settling for too many forced threes, as it shot a combined 5-19 from long distance.

While the offensive effort was not up to par, the Bears made sure to lock in defensively. Coming into the match, Dartmouth’s graduate guard Brendan Barry was shooting a scorching hot 43.9% from three on 9.1 attempts per game. If Cal didn’t want the game to turn into an embarrassing upset, it would have to prevent Barry from looking like Steph Curry.

“We obviously did not want him to have a big night,” Fox said.

Spoiler alert: The Bears succeeded, holding Barry to a 1-6 shooting night from three.

Luckily for Cal, Dartmouth didn’t do itself any favors offensively, shooting an even worse 34% on 64 attempts and 26% from distance on 23 attempts. The Big Green were able to keep themselves in the game, though, due to junior forward Cam Krystkowiak, who led his squad with 20 points on a respectable 50% clip.

“Our objective tonight was to take away the 3-point shot, even at the expense of giving up some 2 pointers. Ultimately we did a pretty good job of that,” Fox said.

Next up for the Bears are the slumping 5-8 Pacific Tigers, who have lost five of their past six games.

As James Baldwin once said, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

While the Tigers are looking like a lost cause, Cal is in no place to overlook any opponent, especially after its Dartmouth performance. Moreover, the Tigers will likely be looking to make a statement win to not only end their losing streak, but also to have a victory over a power program like Cal.

While the Tigers are no defensive powerhouse, they are sneaky, averaging a solid 6.6 steals per night while forcing teams to cough up the ball 14.1 times per game.

If Cal wants to avoid an upset, it cannot let this Pacific squad take advantage of the Bears’ already shaky ball handling. The Bears are prone to making unforced turnovers, which is why they have to be vigilant with the ball.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Overall, the Tigers aren’t an amazing 3-point shooting team, but they have two snipers in junior guard Luke Avdalovic and senior forward Jeremiah Bailey, who both shoot over 44% from distance and are two of Pacific’s three leading scorers.

For Cal, employing a similar defensive strategy to what it used on Dartmouth’s 3-point scorers would certainly be helpful, as it showed to be effective.

If the blue and gold want to build winning habits, beating Pacific would be a great building block.

Justin Kim covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].