BERKELEY -- Former California head coach Mike Montgomery did not lose more than two games in a row by double digits in his time in Berkeley, but after the Bears’ sixth straight loss, current head coach Cuonzo Martin has now lost five in a row by at least 10 points, as Cal fell to No. 7 Arizona, 73-50 on Saturday night in front of an announced sell-out crowd of 11,877 at Haas Pavilion.
“I thought it was an exciting game, great fan energy; I thought our fans had a tremendous passion, it was a fun environment,” said head coach Cuonzo Martin, who’s team lost its sixth straight, and dropped to 1-6 in Pac-12 play. “I thought our guys – not for the whole game, but for the most part – put together a really solid effort. We just lost to a better team.”
[ANALYSIS: Turnovers Aplenty]
With a clutch of football official visitors in the stands, and with three of Cal basketball’s most crucial recruits in the house – 2015 uncommitted five-star Ivan Rabb, 2016 uncommitted four-star Christian Terrell and 2016 four-star commit Oscar Frayer -- the Bears gave the Wildcats quite a fight – for 16:13 of the first half.
At that point, with 3:47 left before the break, the Bears and the Wildcats were dead even at 17-17.
From then until the break, though, Arizona ripped off a 12-2 run, as the Bears shot 1-for-4 to finish the stanza, while the Wildcats hit each of their last four shots – including two three-pointers – and rode that momentum to a 23-point win in Berkeley, avenging last year’s buzzer-beater by the now-graduated Justin Cobbs.
“I don’t think it was very difficult to sustain,” said senior David Kravish of Cal’s effort on the floor – which stands in stark contrast to the lack thereof against Arizona State on Thursday. “We’ve gone through a rough stretch. We’ve been working really hard in practice, watching film, trying to come together, and we’re right there. Coach said were there for 30 minutes. We need to be there for 40. It’s better than Arizona State, so we just have to keep taking steps, fighting and coming together.
Arizona guard T.J. McConnell wasn’t flashy – save for his twisting up-and-under lay-in at the start of the second half to put the Wildcats up, 38-23 – but he was a pass-first point, dishing out a game-high six assists to go with his 3-for-6 shooting night. All but one Wildcat who played on Saturday scored at least two points, led by 18 from freshman Stanley Johnson, who went 5-of-10 from the field.
“McConnell’s really good in the pick-and-roll, and they’re good at getting down low and making moves,” Kravish said.
“Guys like McConnell trail you on your outside hip, instead of your inside, off of screens, so it’s a little different,” Jordan Mathews said of McConnell’s defense.
Arizona led for 36:37, and only four Bears got on the scoreboard with baskets, with 16 each by Kravish and Mathews, and 13 from Tyrone Wallace.
“It’s easy to say what you’d like to do,” Martin said of the lack of scoring options. “Sometimes, there’s a reality to what we’re doing. Scorers score the ball. Some guys aren’t built to do it. We’ll get them better. We’ll continue to get them better.”
Wallace had a game-high six turnovers to go with four assists. For the 10th time in 20 games, the Bears as a team recorded double-digit turnovers, coughing the ball up 19 times to Arizona. Now, over the last four games, Cal has turned the ball over 63 times, and recorded 39 assists.
“I just think it’s just being strong with the ball, being able to handle the pressure when people extend on you,” Martin said of the way to solve turnovers. “As long as they pressure you, you’ve got to put your head down and get to the rim. When you get there, you’ve got to jump stop, make the right decisions. Other than that, I think it’s just going through it, being able to handle the ball. Some guys who are not used to having the ball, have to handle the ball, because of the way teams defend you. That’s just part of it. When you’re a perimeter guy, you’ve got to be able to handle the ball, and I think, sometimes, in the post, with David Kravish, it’s being able to handle that double team and make the right decisions and not be pressured.”
Turnovers worked in Cal’s favor – at least in the first half – as the Wildcats gave the ball up 10 times. The Bears managed to score 10 points off of those 10 turnovers, but in the second half, Arizona stopped slopping around, turning the ball over just three times.
During the Bears’ 13-5 run to take a 17-15 lead in the first half, Kravish scored 8 of Cal’s points, finally finding some footing inside and off the left block against Kaleb TarczewskiEric Jacobsen against Arizona State on Tuesday, but looks for Kravish disappeared as Wallace tried to take the team on his back, driving three times into the teeth of double teams rather than passing out.
“We’ve got to find a flow,” Kravish said. “We hit it in spurts, but once we find the flow, it will be good. We came out and played hard. We need to keep on taking steps and keep fighting forward.”
Wallace finished with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and while Mathews went 7-for-16 with a team-high 16 points, he scored 12 of those late in the second half, when Cal was already down by 20, including a three from the right corner with 54.5 seconds remaining – his second of the half. For the second game in a row, Jabari Bird was a non-factor, going 2-for-6 from the field and 1-for-5 from three-point land, scoring five points.
Wallace was the only Cal player to get to the free throw line, going 1-for-4, while the Wildcats went 23-of-26 from the charity stripe, led by perfect nights from local native Brandon Ashley (4-for-4), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (5-for-5) and Tarczewski (4-for-4). Johnson also went 8-of-9 from the line.
Kravish finished with one block, giving him 207 for his career, and a game-high 11 rebounds. His 16 points came on 8-of-18 shooting, more looks than he’s had in the last two games combined. Martin said that he’d like to try and get Kravish 25 scoring looks per night.
“I was open and they did a good job of finding me,” Kravish said of his eight-point first half. “I don’t know how else to say it. I really believe when we get rolling on offense, we’re as good as any other team. We’ve got great parts and we’ve got great players. When we’re rolling, we’re a really good team. My confidence is really high in this team. Once we come together and we take the steps we need to take, we’re going to be a really good team. We just have to find a flow.”