BERKELEY – Another day provided yet another loss for the California men’s basketball team as the Bears continued their downward spiral to the bottom of the Pac-12 with a loss to No. 7 Arizona, 73-50. A promising start was wasted, as the second half was littered with missed shots and sloppy play. However, one aspect of Cal’s continually lackluster play was crucial in their demise, and it’s a note they’ve hit fairly consistently this season: turnovers. Led by point guard Tyrone Wallace, who had six of his own, the Bears accrued 19 turnovers leading to 20 points for the Wildcats.
“I think [we need to start] being strong with the ball and being able to handle the pressure when people extend on you,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin on the cause behind the team’s many turnovers. “As long as they pressure you, you got to put your head down and get to the rim, but when you get there, you got to jump stop and make the right decisions. Other than that, I just think it’s just going through being able to handle the ball. Some guys not used to handling the ball, have to handle the ball because the way teams defend you and that’s just part of it. When you’re a perimeter guy, you’ve got to be able to handle the ball. “
[RECAP: Cal Loses Sixth Straight]
Wallace, the worst offender, was reluctant to pass the ball, often keeping his eyes down and taking on three or four defenders on his way to the rim. Although at times he was the only option to create any kind of offense (only three other Bears put points on the board), his reluctance to pass the ball proved to be a decisive factor.
“We talked to him about that,” said coach Martin. “[Tyrone’s] an aggressive driver. I think more than anything for Tyrone, [is] being able to jump stop, looking behind you for the perimeter guys and seeing that action. He’ll get better at that; it takes time. That’s the toughest position to learn if you didn’t grow up playing it on a regular basis, and I think he’s doing a good job of learning on the fly because of what we need and he’ll be good at it.”
Since being promoted as a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate early in the season, when he performed at a very high level as a scorer, Wallace has since faced consistent defense schemes aimed at solely stopping him. While he’s adapted, including improving his left handed dribbling and attacking, Wallace has become too keen to over-penetrate. As a result, the ball is sticking to his hands while he has consistently forced the issue.
Many turnovers came at inopportune times, including one with 12:37 left in the second half that came just as Cal had cut the Arizona lead to 13 and seemed poised to make a run. But a poor pass by Wallace led to two Kaleb Tarczweski free throws, and the lead quickly ballooned to 19.
Wallace’s numerous turnovers and continuous tunnel vision in the past few games have coincided with Cal entering one of their worst losing streaks in years The lat time the Bears lost as many as six straight was 2004-05. The 1935-36, 1946-47, 1948-49, 1968-69, 1981-82, 1987-88, 2004-05 teams lost six games in a row, the 1939-40 and 1973-74, 1987-88 teams lost seven, the 1991-92 team lost eight straight, and the 1954-55 and 1978-79 teams lost nine straight, the 1954-55 team under first-year head coach Pete Newell. The 1961-62 team lost 10 straight.
While it’s unfortunate that Wallace is forced to play an unnatural position, the Bears have no other options at the helm. Unless Wallace can further adapt to the point guard position, the natural shooting guard will continue to take many ill-advised drives and forced shots, leading to countless wasted possessions that the Bears simply cannot afford at this point in the season.
“Sometimes there’s a reality, and sometimes you don’t need to explain certain things,” said Martin. “You are what you are, you have what you have, and you make it work, so it’s not very complicated. Not everyone on this roster was built to score.”