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Cal Basketball

USC, UCLA Start a Tough Stretch for Bears

January 4, 2022
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Cal’s men’s basketball team is riding a five-game win streak, but the Bears’ upcoming schedule will give us an idea of how impressive or unimpressive that is.

Starting with USC at home Thursday night the Bears’ next seven games are a gauntlet. Five of the games are against teams currently ranked in the top ten and the other two are on the road in two of the conference's least welcoming venues, Washington and Washington State.

The Trojans (12-0, 2-0 Pac-12), who face the Bears at 8 p.m. Thursday, are ranked seventh and one of three undefeated teams in Division I. They are doing it with defense. USC has held the opposition to 35.2 percent shooting which ranks second in the country. Despite allowing WSU to make an opponent-high 40.0 percent from 3-point range on Dec. 4, USC has held the opposition to a 27.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc, 18th in the country.

Their front line is anchored by 6-10 Isaiah  Mobley, who made several preseason All-American teams, and 6-9 Chevez Goodwin. “Their defense is elite and obviously they have elite size to protect the basket,” Cal head coach Mark Fox said in a Zoom call Wednesday.  “And when you can protect the rim and the paint as well as they can with their size, it makes your (the opponent’s) options offensively few and far between. You wind up taking a bunch of shots away from the basket. You make those at a lower percentage. 

“I think their size up front at the four and the five is impressive and their small forward (Drew Peterson) is listed at 6-9 and he’s every bit of that. Their guards are big, they’re athletic, they’re strong. They’re very well-structured and well coached defensively. What results is one of the best defenses in America. So good, in fact, that people are overlooking how good they are on offense. They are in the top 50 on offense as well. This is a team that deserves to be in the top 10 in the country.”

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Isaiah Movley

Mobley, leads the team in scoring at 15.0 points per game and is tops in the conference in rebounding at 9.58.

“He is a 42.6 percent 3-point shooter and he’s hard to guard,” Fox said. “He is tall, he has long arms, he has great hands and he’s a terrific passer. If they wanted to. they could run their offense through him almost every possession because he is all over the floor.”

Head coach Andy Enfield has rejuvenated the USC program and made it the talk of the campus now that the football program has fallen on hard times. In his ninth season, Enfield is 168-110, giving him the most wins for a men’s basketball coach at USC since Bob Boyd in the 1960s.. The Trojans have been to three NCAA tournaments during that time, and likely would have earned a bid in 2020 had the postseason not been canceled because of COVID-19.

It wasn’t until last season’s magical run that Enfield finally seemed to earn the wide respect he and USC had been seeking. As it turned out, it also came with a contract extension. As other schools searching for coaches started sniffing ar0und Enfield, he was given a three-year extension that will keep him at USC through 2025-2026. Less than 48 hours after facing USC, the Bears take on fifth-ranked UCLA on Saturday.  The Bruins (8-1, 1-0), whose Thursday game against Stanford was postponed because of covid issues in the Stanford program, were scheduled to play a hastily-arranged game against Long Beach State Thursday afternoon 

USC Notes

  • USC's 12-0 start is tied for the fifth-best in school history.  USC's best start was 17-0 in 1910, followed by 16-0 in 1971 and 14-0 in 2017,
  • USC's 12-game winning streak is tied for the eighth-longest in school history.  If USC were to win and go to 13-0, it would be tied for the sixth-longest winning streak in school history.
  • Seven Trojans stand 6-9 or taller. According to KenPom.com, the Trojans have the fourth-tallest roster in the country. Florida State, Arizona and Stanford are 1-2-3.
  • Mobley has made 20 3-point shots this season, tops on the team.
  • USC has started 3-0 on the road with wins at Temple, FGCU and WSU.
  •  USC has played and won three true road games which has it tied with three other teams for the most by a power conference team.  
  • Despite 57 turnovers in its last four games (45 percent of its season total), the Trojans have 192 assists and 128 turnovers for a 1.50 assist to turnover ratio, 21st in the country. 
  • USC’s 10.7 turnovers per game are 25th-fewest among Division I teams. 
  • USC has four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by I Mobley (15.0), Goodwin (13.2), Memphis transfer Boogie Ellis (11.8) and Drew Peterson (10.6). 

UCLA Notes

  • The Bruins will have gone 25 days between games, due to covid protocols when they face Long Beach Thursday.
  • Guard Johnny Juzang leads the team in scoring (16.6 ppg). uard Johnny Juzang has averaged a team-best 16.6 points per game. 
  • Myles Johnson is the leading rebounder at 6.8 per game.
  • •Head coach Mick Cronin is in his third season in Westwood and has a 49-23 record.
  • UCLA went 22-10 last season, including a 13-6 mark in Pac-12 play. 
  •  Eleven of UCLA's 15 players were either born and raised in Southern California or attended high school in the area.
  • The Bruins went 5-1 in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, earning the program's 19th all-time appearance in the Final Four.
  • UCLA leads the series against Cal, 143-103, including a pair of regular-season wins to sweep the season series in 2020-21. UCLA has won the last eight games against Cal

 







 

 
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