basketball Edit

Mark Fox after Cal drops to 0-4: 'I think we should blame the coach'

After the fourth straight humbling loss to start this basketball season, Cal coach Mark Fox started his postgame press conference Friday night by noting that there would be no players joining him.

"I told the players they could stay downstairs because I think we should blame the coach," he said.

The Golden Bears opened this season by losing for the first time ever to UC Davis (75-65), lost 63-54 to Kansas State, 64-62 on the road against a UC San Diego team that is recently new to Division I and has lost its other three games this season, and then the 74-66 loss at home Friday night to a previously-winless Southern team.

The Bears trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half and still by 15 with about 12 minutes to play before mounting some response.

The problem is that even when the offense got going -- mostly at the hand of guard Devin Askew -- the defense continued to flounder.

When Sam Alajiki hit a 3 to cut the deficit to 43-36 early in the second half, the visiting Jaguars responded with back-to-back 3s of their own by Dre'Shawn Allen.

Askew hit two 3s in the span of three possessions late in the game to get within 6 at 66-60, but the Bears couldn't string together consecutive scores as Southern kept having its way offensively. Cal got within 6 points four times in the final minutes but never any closer.

Askew scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.

Ultimately, the difference was Southern shooting 49 percent from the field and 12 of 23 (52.2 percent on 3s). Brion Whitley led the way with 18 points and 4 3s while Allen (3-for-3 on 3s) and P.J. Byrd scored 13 each for the Jaguars.

"I can't put a defense together that gives us a chance to win,' Fox lamented. "We allow 12 3-point makes, we've repeatedly failed to guard the 3-point line and I've got to find a way to get that down. Cannot win if you allow 3-point makes like that. Cannot win if you have 20 turnovers. So I'll take responsibility for that."

Fox continues to reference the injury absence of transfer guard DeJuan Clayton, who has yet to play, as a hindrance to his offense. Veteran point guard Joel Brown has been starting in his place.

"I'm asking Devin Askew to do everything. He had 7 turnovers tonight, but he had 21 points -- he's having to do too much," Fox said. "Some of that is to be expected because we're asking him to do more than is probably fair, but we did some things today you just can't do. Like we're screaming one shot at the end of the half and then we shoot it early, foul them and give them two points. That's unintelligent play.

"Obviously, the turnovers are going to be a factor all year. I think when we get a traditional lineup eventually put back together, that should help us on the offensive end. But if we don't start defending the 3, things won't change."

Askew, the former top-50 national prospect who spent the last two seasons at Kentucky and then Texas, finished 6 of 13 from the field (5 of 11 from 3-point range) and had 5 assists with the aforementioned 7 turnovers. He's averaging a team-high 17.5 points, while center Lars Thiemann (11.5 PPG) and forward Kuany Kuany (10.0) are also in double-figures for the season.

Thiemann had 15 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting Friday night, but he his touches were limited because Fox said Southern didn't respect Cal's outside shooting and packed the lane.

"Offensively, it's going to be a work in progress until we can get another shooter on the floor," Fox said.

He noted that Clayton is not even practicing yet, so his return is not imminent.

Fox is 35-62 now in three-plus seasons at Cal. He had expressed optimism in the preseason that a deeper roster and more athleticism at the forward positions would make a significant difference this season.

"No, we don't have a bunch of confidence. We haven't had a lot of confidence, but you're not going to get confident until you get good at something and you fight through something," Fox said.