For the second consecutive game, the California Golden Bears pulled out a dramatic victory with a three point shot in the final seconds of the game. On Sunday in Seattle, it was Sam Singer, 4 for 29 from beyond the arc, nailing a trey with four seconds to go to beat Washington 90-88. Last night, Tyrone Wallace, who came into the game 3 for 24 from distance in league play, beat the buzzer with a pull-up three to lift Cal to a 70-69 win over USC.
Obviously, these were two fantastic finishes, and Cal has now won three in a row, improving to 4-6 in the conference. They host UCLA Saturday night in what is now a pivotal game, with three tough road games looming ahead on the schedule.
The good news is the Bears are winning. The bad news is, their defense was seriously lacking in the two victories. In fact, one could argue that their defensive shortcomings had a lot to do with the fact that they needed those dramatic shots to win.
Washington made 33 of 62 on their field goal attempts on Sunday, and continually broke the defense down at the point of attack. Cal had no answer for Nigel Williams-Goss, the Huskies outstanding point guard. Williams-Goss played all 40 minutes and scored 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting. He also dished out 5 assists, with no turnovers.
Cal could not find an answer with their pick and roll coverage. Williams-Goss got into the lane at will. Granted, he is a terrific player, but Cal's defense was not up to par. Defense at the point of attack was a problem last season, and it appears to have become one again this year.
Last night, the Trojans utilized a lot of side ball screen action in the second half to convert on 65.4% of their shots (17 for 26). Their nine turnovers, some of them completely unforced, really saved Cal along with timely missed Trojan free throws in the final minute and a half.
Jordan McLaughlin, USC's freshman point guard, had a terrific game with 20 points, although he did have six turnovers. When he fed the ball to the big driving to the basket, Cal was continuously late after the intermission.
“They were making plays, we were hesitant. Our weak side defense wasn't as good as it should have been,” said Cuonzo Martin after the game. “That's just maturity, a breakdown on our part.”
We defended really well at the beginning of the game. They came out and made adjustments in the second half,” said David Kravish. “We needed to have that backside rotation. We've just got to pick up our defense and keep paying attention to details.”
They will definitely need to improve on the defensive end on Saturday night against UCLA. The Bruins are rolling now, and they are playing with a lot of confidence. They hurt Cal badly in the post down in LA, so Martin and staff will need to decide how they will defend Tony Parker and Kevon Looney. It is quite literally a big challenge for Cal.
Tip time Saturday is 5:00 p.m.