ANALYSIS: Wallace Needs to Be That Guy

California throttles Washington State, but inside the numbers, there's a trend that can't continue of the Bears are to have a chance to beat No. 1-seed Arizona at 12:30 on Thursday. Find out inside.

California had a fantastic win against Washington State to tip off the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday, dominating the Cougars in every facet of the game. The Bears won the battle on the glass, the battle from beyond the arc and the assist-to-turnover battle. For the first time all season, Cal looked like a well-oiled machine.

Despite that, though, the quiet play of point guard Tyrone Wallace has to worry the Bears going into tomorrow’s game against the No. 1-seeded Arizona Wildcats, who many feel have a real shot at winning the national title, if not their first Pac-12 Tournament title since 2002. It was great to get a monster game from David Kravish, but Wallace – a first-team All-Pac-12 player this year -- has to be the guy to lead the Golden Bears through the Pac-12 Tournament. He’s been their best player all season, which means he has to continue to be their best player in this tournament.

Wallace’s game against Washington State wasn’t terrible, but it was nothing close to what we’ve been used to seeing from him. The most alarming statistic from Wednesday’s game is that Wallace only got to the foul line once.

Now, it’s possible that some of this was by design. Jordan Mathews said after the game: “Tyrone did a great job getting in the lane. When he does that they really gotta play him for his floater. He does a really good job of finding us. Coaches have taught us during the season to move up and down and make yourself available when he drives.”

The fact that Wallace had 7 assists while Mathews and Jabari Bird combined to go 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc does indicate that perhaps part of the strategy was for Wallace to be more of a facilitator once he gets into the paint, as opposed to attacking the rim, but all the same, Cal will need Wallace to be in attack mode against Arizona.

If Bird and Mathews are both able to really stroke it from beyond the arc against the Wildcats, that will help a lot, but it won’t mean that Wallace can go away from what he’s done all year, which is get to the line and create some and-1 opportunities. In both of Cal’s losses to Arizona this season, Wallace averaged just 14.5 points per game while only getting to the line an average of 3.5 times. During the Bears’ five-game winning streak, Wallace averaged 18.2 points and got to the line an average of 6.4 times per game. These numbers suggest that Cal is most successful when Wallace is scoring the basketball and is getting to the foul line, despite the fact that he’s shooting 60.8% from the line this season.

Cal beat Washington State because David Kravish had a monster game and because DaVonte Lacy went cold – largely thanks to defense by Bird. It’s highly unlikely that Kravish will be able to put up 25 points and 8 rebounds against Arizona when his season average against them has been 13.0 points and 7.5 rebounds. It’s also unlikely that Cal will be able to keep the Wildcats pinned under 60 points.

The bottom line is that Cal needs Tyrone Wallace to have a big game against Arizona in order to have any chance at winning. This isn’t to say that Kravish will definitely have a quiet game, or that nobody else is capable of playing well against Arizona, but against a team like the Wildcats, you need your best player to be the one who sets the tone and Wallace is that player for the Bears. If Wallace plays well and is able to score in addition to creating for others, Cal will have a chance at beating Arizona. If, on the other hand, Wallace isn’t getting to the line and is only scoring around 13 points, chances that the Bears find a way to win are slim to none.


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