Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin breaks down Cal's upcoming road pair against Washington and Washington State

Why will Washington be a tough match-up for turnover-prone California? Cuonzo Martin gives us a peek ...

California Head Coach Cuonzo Martin

"I've watched them quite a bit, and I've always been a big fan of coach [Lorenzo] Romar, so really watching their teams, and how exciting their offense is, getting up and down the floor, the pace they play with, it's a little unique for our guys, when you go over the scouting report for the first time, but not so much for me, because I enjoy watching them play."

Washington is second in the nation with 81.7 offensive possessions per game this season, with a national-best 83.0 possessions per game at home in Seattle, where the Bears face the Huskies at 8 p.m. on Thursday night.

Are they a different team at home? (10-4 at Hec Edmondson Pavilion, 5-6 away): "I think so, in a lot of ways, but they probably have a little more youth that plays heavy minutes, as talented as they are. I just think that's the issue when you go on road games, different environment, and the growth of young men. You have to go through that. I feel like they were right there down the wire, just finished watching the game at Colorado, and they had a chance to win the game. They at least certainly put themselves in position."

How long does it take guys to win on the road? "I don't know if there's a time, as far as months, years. I just think it's a matter of doing, leadership on the floor, executing what you're trying to do, and I think, in our case -- because every team's different; I've had teams that had great success on the road -- I think the thing for our team is taking care of the basketball, [and] turnovers in critical situations. It's one thing to have turnovers, but you can't have those live-ball turnovers. Now, all of the sudden, the game changes, and takes the morale out of your team, the energy out of your team."

"For us, it's more what we need to do and be consistent with doing it, as opposed to just going into an environment where [you think] it's overwhelming and you don't have a shot to win the game. I think it's more about us executing on both ends of the floor."

The Bears are 154th in the nation in turnovers per game (13.0), with 13.7 per game on the road (where they are 1-8), and 12.0 turnovers per game at home (where they are 16-0). Washington is sixth in the nation in opponent turnovers per game (16.7), and have averaged 19.3 opponent turnovers over the last three games. At home, the Huskies see an average of 17.9 turnovers by opponents. do they do defensively to create turnovers? "They get in the passing lanes, and what they do, if you're not used to it, they switch five different ways. Now, you might have a big guy on the point guard, and there might be a smaller guy defending one of our big guys around the rim, so it might seem an easy pass to try to get over the top, and all of the sudden, guys are collapsing. You're also talking about the best blocked shot team in the country. They switch a lot of different things, so you want to come down and run your traditional offense, pass it to the wing and make this play, well, they take those passes away, and now, you have to make individual plays, and execute what you're trying to do. They speed you up. You still have to execute offensively, and make the right plays. It can't be quick shots, off-balance shots, because now that ball's going the other way."

"You watch them on film, their big guys get a lot of lay-ups and dunks in transition, and they're athletic, but what happens is, they switch so many different ways, now, all of the sudden, the perimeter guy is shooting the three-point shot with a big guy defending him, down on the floor, and they're getting baskets, and they really put you in tough situations with their transition offense, because of how they defend you sometimes."

How much does it help Jabari Bird having a dad like Carl, who went through this? "I think it helps. I think it helps, because his dad has always been there, but I don't think it necessarily changes, because he's had two really good games. His dad has always been there. It's more Jabari understanding that being consistent -- these are things I need to do -- and having the confidence to do it, shots fall and it works out. But, I think for him, having a dad that understands that you have to put the work in and the time into it, be consistent with it. You do those things, and eventually, it'll fall in place for you."

Has Bird been playing looser or more relaxed: "I think he was playing well in practice. It's just a matter of when it carries over into the game, consistently making his shots, and then all of the sudden, your confidence gets to a level, but he doesn't stop shooting the ball in practice. There's never been a practice where I've said, 'You need to get your head up, you need to play hard, you need to compete.' That's never been the case. It's just a matter of when it happened in a game, and it's happened for him in the last two games. But, he hasn't changed how he practices or how he performs. He's there at a high level, consistently."

11% of shots taken against Washington this season have been blocked -- the highest percentage in the nation. The Huskies are also tops in blocks per game (7.1), and over the last three games, they've blocked 8.7 shots per game. Over that same span, Washington has blocked 13.9% of shots taken. At home, the Huskies are blocking 12.7% of shots (8.4 per game), third in the nation in that category.

Where do the Huskies block most of their shots -- underneath, or on the perimeter? "They might block a jump shot here and there, but what happens is, they space you out, and that lane might look open, and all of the sudden, you get to that lane, you'd better be ready to make a play, because they have two or three guys corraling the basketball, and not just their bigs. They have guards that can block shots, because they might be 6-5 on the floor, and taller, with length and athleticism, so you'd better be able to make plays."

Malik Dime leads Washington with 2.88 blocks per game (10th in the nation), followed by freshman Marquese Chriss (1.6) and   Matisse Thybulle (1.0), all within the top 10 in the Pac-12.

"They'll block one-on-one, guarding guys, but in most cases, with their big guys, they'll block it away from you. You make a play and you beat one guy, and there's another guy ready to block the next shot. It's not easy, but you don't want to consume yourself with where the shot blockers are on the floor. You still have to play basketball."

Washington's freshman class of Chriss, Dime, Thybulle, Dejounte MurrayDavid CrispDevenir DuruisseauDominic Green and Noah Dickerson has played a lot of minutes: "Very talented, and I've seen quite a few of those guys on the AAU circuit for years. Talented basketball players, who know how to play basketball. Seems like good guys, and it's fun watching them play, because on the surface, it looks like they play well together, like they enjoy playing with each other. That's always a good thing."

How much of an advantage will it be to get Washington into a half-court situation, considering that the Bears are fourth in the nation in two-point shooting percentage defense (40.6%), ninth in opponent effective field goal percentage (43.9%) and 51st in scoing defense (66.7 ppg): "That's very important, because what happens is, [they're] one of the best transition teams in the country, and I think probably no more than 14 seconds comes off the clock, on average, before they get a shot up. Their shots are falling, it's a long night. If they miss them, you've got to box them out. Then, you have to be able to score in transition. If we can get them in half-court -- easier said than done -- and force them to make plays every time down, when you're taking time off the clock, I think it'll help us."

How has Romar done recruiting his own backyard: "Just a tremendous job recruiting, building relationships where you're from, I think that helps in a lot of ways, because you know a lot of people. The thing that I know about him, because I've been around him for years, because he was a coach at St. Louis University years ago, he's a good guy. I think that helps a great deal, so now, you're able to get guys that played in the past, and even some guys, because I think one of the guys helps him quite a bit -- Jamal Crawford -- he does a lot in the community. He didn't go to Washington -- he went to Michigan -- but a lot of those young guys look up to him, and he's around their program a great deal. I think he's one of the biggest contributors to the program, as far as being around those young guys, because they look up to him."

Given Cal's home and road split, does a road trip like this take on extra significance? "I think, again, you put yourself in position, and that's why the question's asked -- you play the game, and whatever happens, happens. I don't get too consumed about it like that, because our job is to win the game. I've never been a coach that said, 'We must win this game,' or 'We have to split one or two,' because if we split, that means it's OK to lose one. We're trying to win every ballgame that presents itself, and the most important game is that one on Thursday, so let's do everything in our power to win that game."

Do you still have a relationship with Romar? "Just when I see him on the road. It wasn't like I was hanging out in St. Louis all the time, even though I'm from East St. Louis, but just seeing him on the road, and a lot of guys I grew up with went to St. Louis are around the program."

Are they successful too with fast breaks: "Sometimes, because of how they crash the glass. That's the thing: You have to box out, because they'll have five guys on the floor -- 6-5, 6-6, 6-7 -- that attack the glass. If you don't box out, it can be along night for you. Now, if you get the rebound, you have an opportunity to run, and that's if you can get the rebound."

Cal is 306th overall in the nation in free throw shooting (65.8%), with a 59.1% mark over the last three games. 

What's the key to improving at the free throw line? "Just confidence in shooting. That's it. You don't have a lot of time to change shooting forms and all of that. It's just a matter of confidence in shooting. Let it fly."

Cal made 11 of its last 12, last time out, so does that say it's a matter of focus? "Again, I've said it before -- when the game's on the line down the stretch, Tyrone Wallace's free throws somehow go in the basket, for the most part. It's just a matter of focus, early in the game. I don't think it's lacking confidence; I really don't. I just think it's a matter of focus, and being consistent with that. Sometimes, in some ways, it can be contagious, when one guy misses a couple, especially with Jordan Mathews missing free throws like that. It's uncharacteristic."

Mathews went 6-of-10 at the line against Oregon State, after having hit 83.1% of his charity stripe shots coming into the game.

Will they change th time in practice dedicated to free throws: "That never changes. It's too much time, in the year, to dedicate to free throws, because you take away from something else, and you don't want to be on the floor so long, because you want to have fresh legs. If you have to do it, you have to do it."

How long do you spend on it? "I'd say an average of 20 minutes per practice, which is a long time, in my opinion, when you're not practicing more than an hour 35, 45 minutes."

Getting to the FT line is good because it means you're attacking: "If you're attacking, that's always a good thing, and I think with Jaylen [Brown], Tyrone, they have that nature. Sam [Singer] is getting better. We're a much better team when Jordan and Jabari get to the free throw line, but it can't take away from what they do. Every chance they can get to get to the free throw line, helps in a lot of other areas."

What can you do to get the ball more to Ivan Rabb? In two of the last three games, he's had two and four shots: "Keep working. I think it's a two-way street. We want to get him the ball, but it's also him posting up and being strong and commanding the basketball."

Do they run their offense through Andrew Andrews: "No, they don't, but he does a great job at getting to the free throw line. It's not every time down where they're trying to get him the ball. He handles the ball, he comes off ball screens, he makes plays, but it's not a case where you see a guy shooting a lot of balls. They do a great job of getting the ball inside, trying to get it inside to their big guys. Their wings run and get shots. I think he puts a lot of pressure on the defense, the way he attacks the rim. He's a good player. He can do a lot of things. His free-throw line pull-up game, lay-ups, three balls, yes, he's a good player."

Andrews is the only guy who stuck around, after Jernard Jarreau transferred to Tulane, Nigel Williams-Goss transferred to Gonzaga and Darin Johnson left for Cal State Northridge : "I don't want to say anything about the guys that left, because I don't know the situation, but I think it's a guy that hung in there when you lost five or six of your teammates. I don't have the particulars, so it's hard to say one way or another what happened. It did happen, but he has to have a good relationship with his head coach."

What's the plan with Wallace: Keep bringing him off the bench? "We'll see. I really don't know. We mix our lineups a lot in practice. We'll see how it goes in practice, and we'll make a decision [Wednesday] or game day." 

Encouraged by what you've seen from him? "Yeah, I think his conditioning is getting better, but Tyrone works hard, so I'm not worried about that, at all." Top Stories