The odds of a given sports game being disappointing is higher than ever before. With an unprecedented amount of players missing time during the COVID-19 pandemic, many teams simply don’t have the talent to put out an entertaining product.
Cal fans who missed the Bears’ 69-42 loss to Washington State might have been lucky. With key players Jayda Curry, Dalayah Daniels and Jazlen Green all sidelined, the Bears were never able to put together an extended run of competent offense. This conference opener was one to forget.
This game seemed to be over as soon as it began. Cal managed a measly 6 points in the first quarter on an atrocious 2-12 shooting performance from the field. They played only slightly better in the second quarter, scoring 8 points on 3-11 shooting. When 8 points is an improvement over the previous quarter, it’s been a rough game. The Bears also went 0-5 from three during that stretch.
This game served as a testament to the value of shot creators in basketball. Without three of its best offensive players, Cal was never able to get into a rhythm. Curry has been the best Bear at creating her own shot in the pick and roll or isolation. The missing Daniels had also recently excelled in the post and at reading the defense from the elbow. And Green had been excelling in her role as a heater off of the bench.
With this talented trio out of action, nobody was able to fill the collective void. Cailyn Crocker was the only Bear to score double digits, which she barely eclipsed with 11 points on 12 shots. Crocker and the other Bears simply aren’t typically used to being the top offensive options on the team. All across the sports world, athletes are being forced into unfamiliar roles to make up for missing teammates.
Head coach Charmin Smith did not use these missing players as an excuse. After the game, she remarked how “Everyone is missing someone. They didn’t have (senior forward Ula) Motuga who is a really key glue player. … We just didn’t perform the way we were capable of today.”
After digging themselves into an insurmountable 38-14 hole by the end of the first half, the Bears prevented the game from turning into a total embarrassment, only losing the second half by 3 points. Still, Smith didn’t see that as a reason to be proud. The Cougars eventually stopped playing their starters, and then stopped putting out most of their rotational players. Coach Smith joked that she didn’t even know the names of some WSU players who saw the floor in the second half.
Although this was a disappointing game for the Bears, it’s not a reason to be worried about their future. Their struggles were not indicative of the team as a whole, as it was missing so many important pieces that Smith says she hopes will be back for Friday’s game against Oregon State. One can only assume that Cal’s offensive prowess will return with them.
Even though it dropped its first game of conference play, Cal still has an elite record of 9-3 due to their dominance against non Pac-12 teams. On Friday, fans will hope to see a Bears team at full strength play in a game that is less disappointing than this loss to WSU.
Casey Grae covers women’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].