The Cal Bears travelled to Sacramento looking to move to 3-0 on the year, but came out flat and never recovered against a hungry San Diego State team.
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The Cal Bears basketball team was at it again on Monday, this time a bit closer to full strength. In Friday’s contest against UC-Irvine, the 25th-ranked Bears came away with an overtime victory despite missing three starters: Ivan Rabb, Grant Mullins, and Jabari Bird.
While players returned on Monday, the ranking didn’t. Despite the deeply short-handed win, Cal dropped out of the top-25 in the AP poll. As part of a double-header showcasing first college basketball games in Sacramento’s brand new Golden 1 Center, the Bears took on the San Diego State Aztecs.
Mullins (neck) and Rabb (toe) both returned for Cal, but Bird didn’t make the trip because of a back problem. Neither of the two returnees started for the Bears, instead coming off the bench. The starting five was Charlie Moore, Sam Singer, Stephen Domingo, Roger Moute a Bidias, and Kameron Rooks.
Cal didn’t get off to a good start, a familiar theme in their three games so far this year. The Bears played abysmal basketball in the first half, shooting 23.1 percent from the floor (6-26). Offensive rhythm was non-existent. On nearly every offensive possession the Bears took terrible shots, continually driving to the rim with little to no success and heaving up extremely poor looks.
The defense wasn’t much better. San Diego State shot over 40 percent in the first 20 minutes, including hitting five of 11 three-point attempts.
At the half, the Bears went into the locker room staring at a 42-25 deficit. At that point, they had more turnovers (eight) than field goals made (six). It looked like Cal was pulled from the rankings for good reason.
Cal had made a habit of making good adjustments at halftime and outplaying the competition for the final 20 minutes. That trend was bucked on Monday. The Bears continued to take poor shot after poor shot, make poor pass after poor pass, and commit silly foul after silly foul.
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They did show a little life after the halfway point of the half. The Bears went on a 10-point run to cut an 18-point lead down to eight, but it would be to no avail. The Aztecs continued to play suffocating defense and hit tough shots, putting the Bears away 77-65.
Moore was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week earlier in the day following his freshman-record 38-point performance last week, but couldn’t quite replicate that success. He still had a nice day overall, finishing with 17 points on 5-10 shooting (2-3 from deep), but committed four turnovers.
In his season debut, Rabb put together a double-double while playing over 30 minutes, well over what was expected as other big men suffered from foul trouble. He scored 19 points on 6-10 shooting and 7-10 from the stripe while pulling down 11 rebounds. After missing a game, Mullins returned had six points and hit just two of his 11 shot attempts.
As a team, the Bears shot just 32.1 percent, by far their worst on this very young year. They also turned the ball over 16 times, and forced just six from San Diego State. They were thoroughly outplayed, save for that small stretch in the second half.
The Bears took their first loss of the season, falling to 2-1 so far in the non-conference portion of their schedule. The Aztecs are now 3-1 on the young season.
Cal’s season continues with game four on Friday, playing host to the Cowboys of Wyoming. There are obviously plenty of areas to improve upon, but there are a lot of games left to be played.