The real story last night was not the contributions of Cal's four seasoned starters. It was the poor play from the point guard position and the non-existent contributions from the bench. Richard Midgley had his worst game in a Bear uniform, handing the ball to Arizona State on a half dozen turnovers, most of which were unforced. AJ Diggs provided a defensive spark off the bench, but fared no better than his freshman counterpart on offense. Diggs and Midgley together scored only 5 points, dished out zero assists while committing 8 turnovers. Defensively, the Bears showed once again that they have no one who can stop a good post player as Ike Diogu tallied 19 points and 13 rebounds forcing both Conor Famulener and Gabe Hughes to foul out.
This was clearly a game that Cal lost on the defensive end of the court. Despite the off night from Midgley, Cal shot the ball at a blistering 53% clip. Unfortunately, the Bears feet looked like they were stuck in glue as the Sun Devils penetrated the lane at will. Consistent dribble penetration led to easy basket after easy basket for ASU as they bettered Cal from the field, shooting a white hot 54%. The Sun Devils aggressiveness on offense allowed them to find their way to the free throw line all night long. The Sun Devils hit 22 of 30 free throws, out-tallying the Bears from the line by 12 crucial points.
Cal did post a 4 point lead at halftime due primarily to the charitable nature of the Sun Devils ball handling. ASU committed 12 first half turnovers which proved to be almost the only way the Bears could keep the Devils from scoring. Unfortunately, Rob Evans was able to get his troops to stiffen their appreciation for every possession, which in turn enabled them to steadily build a second half lead. Down the stretch, some poor foul shooting from ASU and some spotty ball handling gave Cal a shot at a come from behind road win. But two rushed 3 point attempts in the last 2 minutes by the Bears senior co-captains, Joe Shipp and Brian Wethers, sealed the win for ASU.
Ben Braun will be tossing and turning tonight trying to understand what happened to his trademark defense. While he's searching for that answer, he's also hoping to discover who kidnapped his bench. For those keeping track, the Bears non-starters have now scored a grand total of 3 points in two games. Coach won't have long to ponder these issues as Cal now moves on to face the #1 team in the country. The Arizona Wildcats are likely to be feisty and a bit angry after getting upset at home by Stanford.
Unless the Bears can find some defensive intensity, especially in the paint, and get someone off the bench to make a few baskets, Cal faces the prospect of losing two straight games for the first time this season.
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