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Cal Basketball

Cal Men’s Basketball Tips Off With Exhibition

November 2, 2022

(Berkeley, Calif.)  At the end of the evening, both teams remained undefeated.

In a mistake-riddled contest against the D-II Chico State Wildcats, the Golden Bears prevailed by a 62-55 score. Neither team really acquitted themselves well; the Wildcats shot just 29% for the game (18-of-62), posting a dismal 6-for-28 (21.4%) from behind the arc. The Golden Bears were better, but just. Shooting at a 38% clip (21-for-55), they were even worse from behind the arc, putting up an almost unmeasurable 11% on 2-for-18 from long distance.

Before the contest began, Cal honored Chico volunteer assistant coach Russ Critchfield, Cal ’68, one of the best guards the program has ever produced. The Bears could have used Critchfield on the floor tonight, as they committed 12 turnovers that led to 16 points.

But, before you judge too harshly on that stat, Head Coach Mark Fox would like you to know, “We have a number of guys who can play point guard, and the other day we had NONE of them in practice – we had a coach playing the point. Two sick, one hurt, one in class.”

It’s an exhibition game. Cal has six brand-new players on the roster – including some possibly impactful transfers. Devin Askew, who was recruited to, and started 20 of 25 games as a true freshman for, Kentucky – and DeJuan Clayton, a seventh-year graduate transfer from Coppin State, where he racked up more than 1,500 points and 400 assists.

Askew played 31 minutes and tallied 11 points, three boards, two assists and a steal. The Bears as a team finished with nine assists on 21 made baskets, with definite improvement after the intermission, when they registered six dimes on 10 hoops.

After the game, Askew was low-key. “We have a lot of room to grow, offensively and defensively. (This was) My first game, it was fun to be out there the first time.”

Clayton was only on the floor for 16 total minutes. “We have a lot of new guys,” said Fox. “Clayton was on a minutes restriction, no more than 2 at a time.” The coach did not elaborate on why.

Sam Alajiki, who was honorable mention for the all-conference freshman team last year, looked good in his 29 minutes, posting nine points on 4-of-6 shooting. Alajiki appeared to turn an ankle and was helped off the floor in the second half, but he returned several minutes later and played seemingly without restriction or pain.

Freshman ND Okafor was very productive in limited minutes. “Okafor WAS very effective,” his head coach said. “He’s a young player who is learning everything about basketball. I wanted to extend Lars (Thiemann)some to get him into game condition.” Okafor posted 11 points to tie for game-high, on 3-for-5 shooting plus five rebounds in only eight-and-a-half minutes.

Marsalis Roberson seems to be making a bid for serious playing time. He played over 23 minutes and wound up with eight boards and eight points including a welcome 5-for-6 from the free throw line. Along with Okafor’s 5-of-6 from the charity stripe the pair combined for 11-of-12 free throw shooting. Since the rest of the team was 7-for-18, expect those two to be running the free-throw shooting clinic at Thursday’s practice.

Another area of major deficiency on this evening was boxing out on the boards. Despite Cal having a 47-38 edge in rebounds, the Wildcats registered 16 offensive boards. Thiemann commented post-game, “I think we did some good things defensively. We have to get better rebounding.” When asked how his team could improve in that area, Thiemann was succinct: “Block out. We didn’t tonight.” Thiemann did corral 10 boards to lead everyone in that stat, and Cal had 17 offensive rebounds themselves.

The Bears dominated the game in the paint. For the past several seasons, it has been notably difficult watching the team have trouble getting to the rim, and even more trouble finishing once they got there. On this evening, they turned in 34 points in the paint vs. only 16 for the Wildcats.

Chico State is not, to use a phrase from 75 years ago, “some tomato-can” – the Wildcats won the Division II Western Regional last year and were knocked out in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats had balanced scoring Wednesday evening, with Guard Brennan Wheeler leading the way with nine points, while Forward Justin Vigil, guards Evan Oliver, Joshua Hamilton and sixth-man Jojo Murphy all chipped in eight.

It will be interesting to see how Cal is able to apply lessons learned to their next opponent, UC Davis, against whom they are an amazing 33-0 all-time. The Aggies present a very similar look as Chico, a team that takes a lot of shots from outside. Box-out learning will be tested immediately. Tip is at 8 pm at Haas; the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.


Fox, Brown and Thiemann Kick Things Off at Pac-12 Media Day

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Cal Men’s Basketball Tips Off With Exhibition

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