Photo of USF’s Frankie Ferrari courtesy of Eric Taylor/1st String Sports
By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY — Losses of this magnitude don’t disappear from the consciousness easily. Normal losses linger, and this one was far from normal.
After the Dons’ 79-60 win at Haas Pavilion, the Cal Bears find themselves at the crossroads. At 2-6, they’ve had too many lopsided results, with Wednesday’s loss at home arguably their worst showing. The Dons led for 35 of the 40 minutes, and by as much as 29 before a late rally by the Bears in the game’s final minutes.
Haas Pavilion never warmed up, the crowd never got involved with the 10,000 seat building barely half full. And Coach Wyking Jones looked sullen postgame, claiming his team lacked competitiveness.
“We got beat by a veteran team that wanted it more than us,” Jones recounted. “It’s indicative of 14 offensive rebounds. They had more of a fight and Frankie [Ferrari] is a great point guard and did a great job of running the floor and leading the team. We are young and they are an experienced team and I saw that they [USF] wanted it more. I saw toughness.”
Under Jones, the Bears have lost 30 of their 40 games to date. The loss to USF was Cal’s fourth by double-digits at home to a non-conference opponent. Can Cal–with challenging non-conference opponents San Diego State and Fresno State to come, followed by Pac-12 competition–pull it together?
Of course, but more and more, it appears it will require a complete turn of fortunes. The first step: keeping a team together that’s having difficulties grasping and maintaining confidence.
“When you don’t see the ball go through the rim, the urgency to score builds. We start to panic a bit and that’s when you see silly fouls, not boxing out and losing focus,” Jones said. “We had some good looks that we would normally knock down, it just compounded on the defensive end and guys got more anxious to get a stop.”
Given, the Bears lack of size and physicality, offensive improvement will be easier to attain than will defensive cohesion. But the Bears assist-to-turnover ratio must improve with the team having 82 turnovers and only 70 assists after 12 of each in Wednesday.
The Bears botched their final possession of the opening half, failing to get off a shot. Prior to that, a pass rolled through freshman Andre Kelly’s legs than out of bounds, another sailed over Justice Sueing’s head and ricocheted off the USF bench.
Meanwhile, USF looked confident, and built on their season start, at 8-1, their best in two decades. Moreover, the Dons showed little jet lag from a weekend in Ireland, where they narrowly suffered their first defeat, 85-81 to No. 21 Buffalo.
“I was curious to see how we were going to come out and start the game, and where our energy was going to be. We were coming back to play against a Pac-12 team,” said Charles Mindlend who paced the Dons with 17 points. “I was really happy with how we played.”
Center Jimbo Lull added 14 points, and sharpshooter Jordan Ratinho added 12 on four of nine shooting from three. The Dons enjoyed a 36-22 advantage with points in the paint.
Cal got 17 from Kelly, and 16 points from Darius McNeill. Last year’s leading scorer Sueing finished with four points. The sophmore forward has missed 44 of 68 shots taken this season.
Top reserve Juhwan Harris-Dyson played just two minutes before a previously diagnosed hand injury flared up.
The Bears welcome San Diego State to Haas Pavilion on Saturday for a 7:30 pm tipoff.