Photo by Al Sermeno/klcfotos
Cal Basketball

Bears Open With a Big Win

November 6, 2017

Wyking Jones' first game as Cal's head basketball coach could not have gone much better, no matter what he thinks.  In what offically was an "exhibition" Monday the night, the Bears overwhelmed a clearly outmanned University of Providence, 81-52, at Haas Pavilion.

"I'll take it," said Jones of his first victory. "But there are some things we have to work on."

Although the teams pretty much had the building to themselves -- no crowd figure was nnounced, but it could easily have been the counted without a calculator -- the players acted as if it were a full house. It was a Cal team that showed off some impressive newcomers and veterans who appear ready to take on added responsibilities.

Don Coleman, one of the vets who will have a bigger role, led the Bears with 20 points. He was 8-for-18 from the floor, but only 2-for-7 from three-point range. He admitted he tossed up some ill-advised shots and Jones agreed.

"There were a couple that he took that I told him in the timeout that we needed a better one than that," Jones said. "But at the same time, I don't want to pacify him. I don't want him to feel like if he's open he can't shoot the ball, because he is our best scorer. From the guard position he is the only proven scorer because I've seen him do it in games."
As promised the Bears played an ubeat offensive style, taking off and running at every opportunity. On defense they pressed the visiting Argonauts from baseline to baseline, forcing them to work overtime to simply get the ball across midcourt. Once the weary Argos reached the forecourt, which they didn't always do, they were confronted with either an agressive zone defense or a clinging man-to-man. They couldn't handle either one, hitting just 27.9 per cent of their field goal attempts, most of which were contested.

Jones, not an easy man to please, was not thrilled with the Bears' half-court defense, no matter what the number said. "I kept telling the guys to close out on their shooters and make them put it on the floor," he said. "...Our guards didn't do a great job of closing out and taking away the three.

"I thought the press was good today, I thought the press was better than the half court. we sped them and turned them over 19 times, got eight steals. Kingsley (Okoroh) did his job protecting the rim."

"I think it is enjoyable," Okoroh said of the press. "We have quick guards that can capitalize on mistakes. I don't think we capitalized that well today. we got the steals we just need to finish."

Coleman said the frantic style the press and fast-break creates will get even better as the season goes on. "I worked out well," he said. "We are going to be faster than we were last year. I look forward to it."

Okoroh began his senior year with a triple-double, 14 points, ten rebounds (the last in the final seconds) and ten blocks.

"I didn't know," Okoroh said. "Until my teammates told me. I just focused on the game."

Despite his center's modesty, Jones felt the achievement will have an impact. "He is going to come into the next game with a lot more confidence," Jones said. "The bigs always do the dirty work, and for him to get the reward of a triple double is great for us."

Marcus Lee, the transfer from Kentucky, made his debut and scored 17 points and hauled down 12 rebounds. "He was good on both ends, he's a talented young man, he had a presence," Jones said. "He's going to be good for us all year.

Australian freshman Grant Anticevich hit all four of his field goal attempts and even had a blocked shot, and fellow freshman Deschon Winston had seven points and three assists.

Things obviously won't always be this easy. Providence, which is a continent removed from its namesake in Rhode Island, is an NAIA school located in Great Falls, Montana, and has an enrollment of 950. It is predicted to finish seventh in the Frontier Conference, which will never be confused with the ACC. The Argos don't have a player taller than 6-7 and only one of those played. That made things fairly easy for Cal's big men. The Bears outrebounded the visitors 48-38 and outscored them 48-14 in the paint.

The Bears were missing Cole Welle, Justice Sueing and Juhwan Harris-Dyson with injuries. Jones said the latter should be back for U.C. Riverside on Friday. The others probably not. He feels Harris-Dyson will improve the half-court defense.




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