Coppin State Visits Cal

BERKELEY -- Cal will once again face a zone as 2-8 Coppin State comes to town with both Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown in shooting funks.

Game at a Glance

Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
Sat., Dec. 19, 4 p.m. PT
Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson - Play by Play, former Cal head coach Mike Montgomery - Analyst)
KGO 810 AM (Todd McKim - Play by Play, former Cal assistant Jay John - Analyst)
Sirius/XM Radio:
Special Event:
Cal will host Filipino Heritage Night on Saturday, with food trucks in front of Haas Pavilion from 2-4 p.m., featuring Yummi BBQ and Cluck It Up ... The National Anthem will be sung by Pinay, a Bay Area a cappella group ... The Bears have a Filipino-American player on the roster in sophomore Brandon Chauca, who has seen action in one game so far this season, but played in 13 of the final 14 games last year, playing in 22 games overall ... Pregame, there will be a cultural dance by Likha, a Filipino folk ensemble ... At halftime, there will also be a cultural dance performance by Little Manila Dance Collective.

BERKELEY -- California (8-2) has hree more games left before the new year, and, coincidentally, three more games until the start or Pac-12 play. The first of those three is Coppin State (2-8), which has lost 109-68 to Iowa and barely beat Division II Goldey-Beacom College, 80-73. The Eagles are led by three players averaging in double figures (the Bears have four), with top scorer Terry Harris, Jr., averaging 11.9 -- a figure that would be good for fifth among Cal players. The Eagles are a pesky rebounding bunch, with the 6-foot-8 Harris averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, and 6-foot Canadian sixth-man guard James Sylvester averaging 4.6, playing in 10 games and starting two.

But, as Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin said in his Thursday press conference, Saturday's 4 p.m. tip is not so much about the Eagles as it is about the Bears. Cal is 150th in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.10), and that's not going to cut it for Martin, especially since the Bears is averaging 11.5 turnovers per game, tied for 55th in Division I, with games of 14, 15 and 19 turnovers on its resume. it's something that "without a doubt," worries the second-year head coach.

The Bears are 273rd in the nation in free-throw percentage (65.1%), with point guard Tyrone Wallace -- who started the year 18-of-24 (75%) -- shooting 60.7% from the line on the year, and freshman Jaylen Brown shooting 62.1%. Martin notes that Brown -- who's averaging 14.3 points per game -- would be closer to 18 if he hit his free throws.

Coppin State will play San Francisco tonight before crossing the Bay Bridge to face Cal on Saturday. The last time the Eagles played the Bears, then-sophomore Wallace scored 20 points, pulled down six rebounds and dished out seven assists. This season, Wallace is shooting a career-best 48.1%, but over the last three games, he and Brown have gone a combined 27-of-71 (38.0%) from the field, while junior Jabari Bird has begun to show some life. Bird has gone 13-of-24 (54.2%) from the field and 8-of-16 from three, and has scored 15 and 13 in his last two contests. In the first seven games of the season, Bird had gone 27-of-59 (45.8%) in the previous seven games, and 8-of-30 (26.7%) from beyond the arc.

Since being moved from starter to bench player, Bird's shooting percentage has gone from 46.9 to 50.0, his three-point shooting has gone from 23.8% to 44.0% and he's increased his production by 2.5 points per game to 11.3.

"It's very important, because he's a talented player," Martin says. "Everybody goes at their own pace, and they find their way in their particular time. For me and him, it's to be aggressive, to be strong with the ball, to be in attack mode, becaus I still think he can get to the rim and make plays, like he dribble penetrated in the first half and found Ivan [Rabb] for the dunk. He has to do more of that, because he has that in him, and not just have the mentality to settle for perimeter shots. As long as he's aggressive, he's OK." Brown, who is shooting 41.2% on the season and 8-of-32 (25%) from three-point range, has been dynamic, powerful and certainly exciting at times on the floor, but he's also turned the ball over 25 times to just 11 assists, with a recent four-game streak with nary a single assist. That's not what you want from one of the top five players in the nation.

"This is not easy," Martin said. "If you look around the country, it's tough when you're a freshman. I was just reading what John Calipari was saying about Skal Labissiere, who plays for him as a center. They projected him to be the first pick in the draft, and he's strugglign. Calipari says he needs to call Marcus Camby to talk to the guy. Here's a guy projected to be the first or second pick, whatever that means, and it's not easy. This is basketball. Everybody plays this game. Everybody's trying to do the same thing and win ballgames. It's not a cake walk. You've got to continue to grow as a basketball player, continue to get better, continue to work hard."

Brown's adjustment to the college game -- where he's not the biggest and strongest player on the court, every night out -- has been a speed bump, as he's had four or more fouls in six games this season, with two foul-outs.

"I don't think it takes a re-adjustment. I think it's playing the same way you play, but just understanding that it's a different level of competition," Martin said. "There's a scouting report. There's a game plan, there's a certain way guys defend you. They won't allow you to just get in the lane and bulldoze through that. Guys take charges at this level. Now, you're going against guys just as big, if not stronger. In high school, you maybe run across one guy every five or six games that matched his strength. You have guys on the floor, every night, like that. It's a matter of making his moves, making the right decisions, when to shoot the pull-up, when to attack all the way to the rim, when to shoot the three ball. It's those sorts of things. It's not necessarily re-adjusting, but understanding feel. That's just a case of going through it, understanding how teams are going to defend you, and making a decision. They have to be quick decisions, because at this level, three dribbles, after that, it's too many."

Until Brown and Wallace can get back on the horse -- preferably before heading out to Virginia on Sunday -- Bird looks like he's going to have to play a bigger role, even if he still comes off the bench.

"You're talking about a guy who's a junior, who's a talented basketball player, so we're not talking about his talent; we're talking about his consistency," says Martin. "I don't think he lacks confidence; it's just being aggressive, strong with the basketball, making decisions, being sound, sprinting off screens, being strong as he goes and getting a tip-dunk. I think, with him, it's just the consistency of getting every possession down, not to stand and watch but to be assertive."

Cal certainly has a lot of warts at this point, but Coppin State could be the tonic that the ears -- including Brown and Wallace -- need before heading across the country to face the No. 8 Cavaliers (8-1), but we'll have more on that after Saturday's game.

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