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Cal Basketball

Ducks Feast On Cal Turnovers, Take Down Bears

February 27, 2021
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The Cal men’s basketball team has been careless with the ball much of the season. It has cost many games, especially Saturday’s regular-season finale against Oregon. 

The Ducks led from the start, held off a couple of threats, and left Haas Pavilion with a 74-63 victory. Cal (8-19, 3-17 Pac-12)  turned the ball over 11 times which led to 27 points for the Ducks (16-5, 11-4). And although their final field goal shooting stats are acceptable (24-for-53, 45 percent), the Bears started off slowly, hitting just four of their first 20 shots, and were playing catch-up from the outset.

“Our inability to take care of the ball was costly,” head coach Mark Fox said after the game. “We only had four turnovers in the first half, but we had seven in the second half that were costly.”

The Bears stayed as close as they did for as long as they did because of their defense, which Fox said was as good or better than it’s been all year. But it doesn’t do much good to stop a team from scoring if all you are going to do is give the ball right back.

“It impacts our defensive numbers,” Fox said of the giveaways. “I thought our defense played really well, when you give them that many layups, that many easy shots off turnovers it’s hard to really come out of there with good defensive numbers.”

In one gallng second half sequence, Oregon forward LJ Figueroa stole the ball on three consecutive Cal possessions, including one immediately following a Bears’ timeout, and scored a bucket himself each time.

Fox said the Bears need to devote practice time to avoiding such happenings, but that can be easier said than done.

“There were a couple where we were really soft with the ball, got a little lazy with our fundamentals,” Fox said. “That comes down to not being fundamentally sound. It’s a boring way to practice and play. But when you learn the consequences of little things, you know there is no such thing as a little thing. So catching the ball, and facing up, and being strong with it is really important. Now that’s hard to do every day, every game. That is an area we need to improve. 

The shooting miseries that have plagued the Bears much of the year, were also a factor early. Cal missed 16 of its first 20 shots, as Oregon slowly built a first-half lead.

“You have to credit Oregon’s defense today,” Fox said. “They were starting in a zone, switching to man-to-man halfway through the possession, and it caused us to get a little bit out of rhythm. I thought we adjusted rather quickly to it. We missed a couple of easy ones, Lars (Thiemann) missed a couple inside and Andre (Kelly) missed one inside. We need to get more consistent play from the point guard spot, I think that will help.”

Oregon is an unusual team to attack. The Ducks don’t have a lot of height, but on the other hand, nobody is very small. There are all these 6-5, 6-6 guys with long arms, getting their mitts on the basketball when you think it belongs to you.

With Cal shooting just 39.2 percent in the first 20 minutes Oregon built a 34-27 halftime lead. Matt Bradley, the offensive catalyst, missed his first five shots and had only one field goal at halftime.

But whatever Fox said to his team at halftime he should remember, because the Bears came out hot to start the second half and opened on a 6-0 run to get within a point at 34-33.

But the Ducks’ Chris Duarte hit a trey and, surprise, surprise, Cal immediately turned the ball over, a miscue Figueroa turned into a hoop.

Oregon then slowly pulled away, pushing the lead as high as 19. 

The Bears made one more mini-surge, fueled by Ryan Betley, and cut the margin to 12 at the 3:22 mark. Oregon coach Dana Altman, who had started to clear his bench, thought better of it and returned some starters to the floor. They were able to keep the Bears at a distance the rest of the way.

Betley, the grad transfer from Penn, had his best shooting night in a while, hitting 5-of-12 from the floor and leading the Bears with 13 points. Betley, who received an enthusiastic hug from Fox as he left the floor, has the option of returning to Cal next year, as Makale Foreman and Grant Anditceivh have said they will do. He is undecided.

“I just want to take some time off, decompress,” Betley said. “Obviously we want to finish strong. It’s been a grind with the protocols. It’s been. I just want to take some time off away from basketball, play some golf here and there and figure it out.”

The Bears are off for ten days until their first-round game in the conference tournament in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 10. The conference cleared the schedule for the upcoming week so that teams that had games postponed during the conference season could make up at least some of them. 

The Bears did not have any games postponed and a game against Stanford, originally scheduled this week, was played earlier.

Fox said he would balance team activities between the players resting and healing, yet staying sharp.

“We are going to give them (the players) a couple of days just to heal up, and then we’re going to hit it hard on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, maybe play a mock game amongst ourselves, then give them another day off. Hopefully, they’ll see the tournament is just around the corner.”

Fox also pointed out that the tourney will be the first and only time this season that family and friends can see the team play in person.

“Hopefully that will get us through the next ten days because they (the players) will have something to look forward to.”

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Ducks Feast On Cal Turnovers, Take Down Bears

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