There are some really good defensive teams in the country. Arizona State isn't really one of them, but the California Golden Bears inept offense made the Sun Devils' defense look pretty good. The visitors broke the game open in the first half to rout the Bears 79-44 in front of a small Haas Pavilion crowd of 7,469 on Thursday night.
It was Cal's second worst home loss in school history. They were blown out by Arizona State 91-55 on February 2, 1979. This 35-point margin fell just one point short of that ignominious defeat.
It was Cal's fifth straight loss, and their record dropped to 11-8 overall, 1-5 in the league. Arizona State (10-9, 2-4) won their second straight conference game.
“We came out, we didn't play very well,” said David Kravish. “We just have to come back and regroup.”
Cal had eight days to prepare for this game following their loss to Stanford, but the extra days did not appear to be helpful. “We went back and worked on our offense,” said Kravish, but that was not obvious from the results on this night.
“It's my job as a coach to get our guys ready to play, and to compete. Obviously their job is to execute what we're trying to do, said Coach Cuonzo Martin. “So, I didn't do a very good job as a head coach of getting our guys ready to compete and battle. We came up short.”
Martin seemed surprised by the poor performance. “I thought we had really good practices. I thought the guys competed, made shots, made plays.”
Perhaps they left everything on the practice court.
The fact is the Bears have been struggling on offense for some time, but they hit a new low point in the first half, where the numbers tell the story. Cal made 4 of 17 shots, and turned it over 11 times. The Sun Devils scored 15 points off those turnovers.
The Bears actually made three of their first four shots. After Mathews hit a jumper at the 15:03 mark, Cal missed their next 12 shots. The futility lasted more than 13 minutes. From 10-10, ASU went on a 22-0 run to put the game away. When Kravish finally scored on a layup with 1:39 left before the break, the crowd erupted in a loud, somewhat sarcastic cheer.
The home team slunk off the court trailing 34-13 at the intermission. It was Cal's lowest scoring half since they played Notre Dame in the 2010-11 season and scored all of 5 points in the first half. When they came back from the locker room, the body language was not good.
Things did not improve. The lead grew to 38, and the Bears did not put up much resistance. Many in the crowd headed for the exits with 10 minutes to play. The second half was little more than extended garbage time. The rout did give Martin the opportunity to play the guys down at the end of the bench.
For the game, Cal made exactly one third of their shots, 15 for 45. They finished up with 19 turnovers, which led to 27 Sun Devil points. The combination of poor finishing and sloppy ball handling was deadly.
Cal will now prepare to play one of the better teams in the country, the Arizona Wildcats. It is hard to imagine they will have a lot of confidence going into that game.
Kravish said all the right things after the game: “I believe in every one of these guys. We're a family. We're going to come together tomorrow, we're going to have a hard practice, we're going to play hard, we're going to play together.”
Game time vs. Arizona is on Saturday night at Haas at 7:30 PM.