When: 6:00 p.m. Pacific, Thurs., Jan. 21
Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Kevin Burkhardt, Jim Jackson)
Radio: KSFO 560 AM - Todd McKim, Jay John
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: Sirius (93) and XM (197)
Series History: ASU leads, 40-37, and has won the last five games in a row, dating back to the 2011-12 season
Last Meeting: at ASU 74, Cal 70
Numbers to Know: Cal leads the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense (37.8%) and scoring defense (65.9 ppg), and the Bears are No. 1 in the nation in two-point field goal percentage defense (38.4%). Arizona State is 11th in the Pac-12 in shooting (42.8% from the field). The Sun Devils are 135th in the nation in two-point field goal percentage (49.3%).
BERKELEY -- Over the last three games -- all on the road, all Cal losses -- the Bears have turned the ball over 49 times. That's bad enough for a team that was ranked in the top 15 in the preseason, and is now struggling to maintain hope of an NCAA Tournament invite. Those turnovers have been compounded by 34 offensive rebounds given up. That's 83 extra chances Cal has allowed to its opponents.
Yes, Cal is 11-0 at Haas Pavilion this year, including wins over Colorado and Utah to open Pac-12 play, but with the Sun Devils, and then Arizona coming in for a 5:30 p.m. tip on Saturday, that home dominance could take a big blow.
Arizona State went 18-16 last season -- its last under Herb Sendek -- and 9-9 in conference. This season, the Sun Devils may not have an eye-opening record, particulalry in conference play, but the strongest parts of their game match up to the Bears' weakest points.
http://www.scout.com/college/arizona-state/story/1632779-justice-holder-... Cal is 216th in the nation, committing 20.1 personal fouls per game, and Arizona State is fifth in the conference in efficiency at the line, shooting 70.8% from the charity stripe.
"The thing we talk about with the young guys, even all the other guys, is, 'You have to be ready before it happens. You can't react when it's too late," said Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin. "You have to position yourself before the play happens on defense.' I think that is the biggest key -- being turned around, being ready, especially when the ball is moving in transition, to be set, to be able to play defense. When you react late, that's when you get in trouble. I think the positioning early, most of their fouls, they get them and it's understandable, and I see why the referee makes the call, so it's not a case of hard fouls or protecting somebody, taking a charge from somebody else. We have to do a better job positioning ourselves early, and they won't get those fouls."
Cal is eighth in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage (33.7%), while Arizona State is fifth in the league in cleaning up the defensive glass, hauling in 71.9%.
Jacobsen is Arizona State's only true big, at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds, which means that the Bears will likely go small, as they did against Oregon State. With junior Sam Singer now taking up the starting point guard mantle in Wallace's absence, that's one fewer guard on the bench with meaningful experience, meaning that there's a greater likelihood that Stephen Domingo, Roger Moute a Bidias and Brandon Chauca will see even more minutes.
The Sun Devils have three upperclassmen in their starting lineup, and two sophomores, giving them the edge when it comes to experience, particularly at the point, where Tra Holder -- who earned Pac-12 All-Freshman honors last season -- averaged 27.8 minutes per game as a true freshman, and is the Pac-12's seventh-most prolific scorer this season, averaging 16.2 points per game.
"They play hard, they rebound the basketball, they crash the glass extremely well," said Martin. "I think with Tra Holder as a sophomore point guard, he's probably scoring as well as anybody in the league. He's doing a great job scoring the basketball. Last year, he probably averaged eight, nine, 10 points, but he did more facilitating than shooting. Now, he's really shooting the ball, he's shooting it at a high level, he's getting to the rim. He has a lot of guys around him that can not only shoot the ball, but make plays off the dribble. When you've got multiple guys between 6-6 and 6-8, who can dribble the ball and shoot from three, with physical stature, it creates a problem if you're not ready to rebound and box out."
http://www.scout.com/college/arizona-state/story/1633224-asu-comeback-fa... Arizona State has jacked up more three-point shots than any team in the Pac-12 (408), and though the Sun Devils are last in the conference in three-point percentage (32.1%), Cal is 11th in the league in three-point defense, allowing opponents to hit 36.3% from beyond the arc.
Cal is 237th in the nation in extra possessions, giving up an average of 1.6 extra chances per game to opponents, and 6.7 per game over the last three contests. Arizona State is 41st, getting an average of 3.8 extra possessions per game, and 7.3 over their last three games.
The Bears have also been terribly inefficient on offense during their three-game losing skid. While Cal is middle-of-the-road in offensive efficiency (148th in the nation) on the season, over the last three games, the Bears' 0.872 points per possession over those three losses would rank among the worst five teams out of 341 Division I programs.
Simply put, Cal is giving up possessions it can't afford to give up.
"They're good. They got a lot of guys who are really athletic, they can score the ball," Singer said. "They present some challenges -- I don't think anything differently than any other team. Their point guard can score at a high level, and their wings are very athletic, so one thing they do do well is offensive rebound, so we've been working hard at that in practice so we can get out and go."
Wallace out, is Singer the answer?
Singer vs. Wallace
Over the last six games, Singer has a +35 plus-minus rating, compared to Wallace's +19. Over the last five games (Pac-12 play), Wallace has been better, with a +11 rating to Singer's +7.
Over those five games, Wallace has averaged 15.2 points per game, 5.0 assists and 3.4 turnovers (17 turnovers to 25 assists), but a startling 11 turnovers to 11 assists in the last three contests. Over that same span, Singer has averaged 2.4 assists, 4.4 ppg, 1.2 turnovers per game (6 turnovers to 12 assists).
Wallace, over the last five games, is averaging 34 minutes per game, to Singer's 20.6.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1634546-bttv-singer-bird-t...If you extrapolate Singer’s numbers in league play to what they’d look like with Wallace’s minutes, he'd be averaging 7.3 points, four assists and two turnovers per game. Wallace has shot the ball 60 times in the last five games, and Singer, 19. Singer, with Wallace's minutes, would have shot the ball 31 times.
Extending this to the season, Wallace has 51 turnovers in 595 minutes. Singer has 20 turnovers in 342 minutes. Singer’s numbers work out to 34.8 turnovers in the same amount of minutes Wallace has played on the season. That amounts to just under one fewer possession per game (0.89) for Cal opponents. Given that the Bears have lost their last three games by a grand total of 15 points – or five per game – and that one fewer possession for an opponent becomes very large, indeed.
"Even in the three road games, with Tyrone, you have 49 turnovers in three road games, you're down the stretch in the game with 40-plus seconds left in a game that can go either way, you give up offensive rebounds, 55 percent average from the free throw line in those three games, when you have a chance to win," Martin said. "For us, it's really taking care of the basketball, at least try to hover around 70-plus percent from the free throw line, I think we'll be OK, because I think our defense has been sound, to give us what we need."
One possession doesn’t seem like much when the Bears are five points per game in arears over the last three, but when you consider where else Cal has been lacking – at the free throw line – now the gap beings to close.
On the season, the Bears are dead last in the conference, shooting 66.1% from the charity stripe. Over the last three games, that number has been much worse – 37-for-63 (58.7%). If Cal shot the conference median from the line – 69.7% -- over that span, that would equate to seven more free throws made over the last three games. Now, instead of losing those three games by a total of 15, the cumulative margin is eight, or 2.33 points per game. That extra possession per game doesn’t seem so small now, does it?
Beyond that extra possession, the qualitiative difference between Singer and Wallace -- one is a pure point (Singer) while the other has spent much of his life as a wing and a scorer -- should make the Bears' offense look very different.
"When you're takling about a guy who's a wing player who goes to the point guard position, that's not easy, and I thought he did a great job adjusting, from that standpoint," Martin said of Wallace this week.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1634295-bttv-martin-talks-... Losing Wallace is a blow, to be sure, and he is the superior athlete, and is more versatile. The loss of his 15.4 points per game on the season, and, beyond that, what he can make happen on the floor, is by no means a good thing, no matter how much of a distributor Singer turns out to be. Make no mistake: Cal is better with Tyrone Wallace.
"[He's] a guy that can make a play. I think that's the biggest key, when you're talking about one of about five guys in all of our league that can make a play -- you can give him the ball anywhere on the floor, and he can get to the rim and make something happen," said Martin. "Not many guys can do that."
What Singer lacks in that from-anywhere playmaking ability, though, he makes up for in distribution, and in that regard, as we've seen over the last three games, when he's running the point, the offense moves, the ball does not stick and more scorers can get involved.
Singer averages about 0.2 shots per minute on the floor, while Wallace averages 0.4 shots per minute on the floor. That means more shots to distribute among Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews. Granted, those players have to hit those shots -- Mathews has shot 9-for-28 from the floor over the last three games (32.1%) and Bird is shooting 10-for-31 (32.3%) in conference play -- but there's no mistake that, with Singer on the floor, Cal's offense has flowed much better.
It must be said, though, that much of the time Singer has been on the floor has been spent with Wallace also in the game, as an additional outside scoring threat, and a driver.
"That's production on the floor, and not just that, but it's also leadership -- the little things that you don't get on the floor, the respect level around the league when he steps on the floor, from the officials understanding who he is -- those are the things that you don't account for," Martin said. "But, I think anytime you lose a key part, it's always tough. I don't think it matters whether you win four in a row, lost five in a row, it's all the same."
Singer vs. Holder
What Singer has given the Bears, particularly over the last three games, has been defense. Against Stanford, Singer was pesky and persistent, playing perhaps his best on-ball defense of the season. Martin has said in the past that Singer can be an all-league-level defender, and he's shown glimpses of that.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1634351-offers-roll-in-for... "Specifically, against Stanford, coach really wanted us to crawl up into their point guards and really pressure them, and we did, and I think it caused some trouble," said Singer, who came up with three steals last week against the Cardinal. "It's just being confident that I can defend at a high level, and doing so. Nothing really changes now, and nothing has changed. It's just continuing to play aggressively, confidently, and defending at a high level."
Holder has turned the ball over 50 times to 59 assists – leading the Sun Devils in both categories – and he’s been more generous to other teams than Wallace has. While Wallace has turned the ball over 51 times in 595 minutes on the floor, Holder’s coughed up 50 in 557 minutes.
Arizona State is tenth in the Pac-12 – one spot behind Cal – in assist-to-turnover ratio, with 0.98 assists per every turnover. That said, the Bears are 11th in the conference in turnover margin, giving up 2.9 more per game than they get. The Sun Devils are fourth in the Pac-12, with a +1.4 margin.
"We're trying to figure it out, but the last three games, we've been turning the ball over way too much," said Singer. "We've been giving up offensive rebounds, shooting free throws at 50 percent, so all those things, combined, have caused us to lose these games. In each game, all three games, we've been down one possession with a minute left, even though teams are getting more shots, so those three things -- limiting turnovers, rebounding well and shooting free throws at a high level -- are something that we need to translate from home to away games."
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