GoldenBearReport - The Notebook: Arizona Schools
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The Notebook: Arizona Schools

It’s an interesting year for Cal men’s basketball, and you can take the word interesting in whichever context you like, or likely use a different, more frank term. Interesting to see a team try to come together with a ton of inexperience. Interesting to see a team in flux from losing eight players from a year while trying to learn a new system with six new freshmen and one senior transfer.

With this most recent week against the Arizona schools, the hope is that Cal is starting to show their growth on the court, on the defensive and offensive ends. There’s still a long way to go, with depth being an issue, consistent offense coming and going, and opposing teams taking advantage of youth to shoot lights out from beyond the arc. The hope would be that the feeling is starting to shift. Neither of these games were the slow start slaughterhouses that plagued the Bears multiple times this season, though they were still losses. The growth is the emphasis right now for the staff, as they look forward to digging themselves out of this hole.

Moving forward through the end of the season, this’ll be a weekly space for a notebook, with notes and analysis from the week’s slate of games.

Arizona, Wednesday Night

Cal Starters: McNeill, Coleman, Harris-Dyson, Sueing, Lee

Arizona Starters: Jackson-Cartwirght, Smith, Trier, Ayton, Ristic

First Half

- No Rawle Alkins for U of A due to a foot injury, held out as a precaution

- One of the first things that jumped out was the use of Coleman as the ball-handler early, allowing McNeill to play off the ball. This was something that carried into Saturday as well. A thought on the way, McNeill has played with temerity over the past couple weeks, something he acknowledged Saturday night, playing off the ball where he can be a solid shooter off screens was meant to give him a chance to get his rhythm back.

- 2-3 zone set-up to take away the corners for this one,after allowing Franks from Wazzu to make 10 3s, mainly from the corner. They tried to force more wing 3s, which is a statistically better move. Arizona made 7-10 in the first half.

- Cal forced turnovers on Arizona’s first two possessions, forced five in the first four minutes to take a 10-4 lead at the first media timeout

- Increased intensity from Lee early to go at DeAndre Ayton. He didn’t keep that up all game, getting saddled with early fouls that limited him. That’s a point Wyking Jones hit on in postgame.

- Harris-Dyson needs to work on a jump shot, but early in this one was a lot of attacking in the paint from him. He goes after every ball when it comes off the glass. His energy is back after the flu took out his offseason gains.

- Ayton is impressive for U of A. Got to wherever he wanted with his spots, good on turnarounds, gives them an easy alley oop option.

- Lee’s first foul came at 13:26 in, Okoroh came in, as did Roman Davis for Lee and Sueing. Okoroh sets solid screens, but had the ball go off his hands as he had an open roll to the basket.

- U of A hedged a lot throughout on screens, really affected McNeill, who had a ton of trouble getting around and attacking.

- 9:12 left in the half, Lee and Sueing back in for Davis and Coleman. Offense starts to struggle with two bigs, Winston and McNeill are in at this point as well. 9-0 run for U of A that doesn’t end until after Coleman and JHD come back in, give the Bears space, and McNeil makes Cal’s only 3 of the night. Lee picks up his 2nd foul with 7:10 left in the half

- Former Cal target Ira Lee comes in. He plays four minutes. He picks up two fouls. He sits (he fouled out in 8 minutes played)

- Arizona not missing, hitting 71% of their shots with 3:56 left in the half, lead 30-21. Cal shooting 38%. Trier hits a long contested 3 right after this.

- One bad call, McNeill got a clean strip on Ayton, called for a foul, 2nd in the half, came out for Winston for final 3 minutes.

- Coleman with a nice strip and coast to coast layup as Arizona goaltends to end the half

First Half: U of A up 36-26. Cal forced 11 Arizona turnovers, while turning the ball over 6 times themselves. 10-29 shooting for Cal (1-9 from 3, 5-6 from the line). 14-20 shooting for Arizona (7-10 from 3, 1-5 from the FT line). Sueing with 7 pts (3-10 shooting) 5 rebounds. Ayton and Jackson-Cartwright both with 9 on combined 7-8 shooting to lead for UA

Second Half

- Early on here, Ayton getting a number of putbacks, Cal’s weakside boxing out leaves something to be desired

- Early move to Okoroh over JHD here, less than two and a half minutes into the half because of this.

- Focus early in the second is on Coleman driving, gets him a layup on one, a couple free throws on another

- Ayton continues to get where he wants, there’s a reason why he’s a lottery pick, if not top 5 guy. He finished with 20 points and 11 boards on 9-11 shooting

- Lot of dribble handoffs on the perimeter in this half, using Sueing to penetrate after three or four handoffs. Sueing gets a couple and-1s off pull-up jump shots. Those worked, while his three point shooting was off (0-6 for the game)

- Cal gets in the bonus early in the 2nd half, with 12:48 to go. Took 24 FTs in the half, made 16 of them. Sueing made 6 of 12 (69.3% from the line for the year)

- More of Coleman running the point here, meant to help McNeill, who only took 5 shots for the game. McNeill struggled to get around hedges, Coleman attacked, though it didn’t lead to enough production.

- Arizona continued to shoot the lights out, finished 11-19 from beyond the arc, Cal finished 1-13 from distance.

- Bears forced 17 turnovers before garbage time, where they added four more

- Cal had a stretch of 9:30 without a field goal, lot of free throws, but again, no production. 64% to 34% in the shooting percentage department by this point. Winston broke that stretch with a breakaway layup

- All things considered, loving Harris-Dyson’s energy throughout the game. He’s not quite at the Jorge Gutierrez level of being able to effect a game with human pinball fanaticism, but that may be a product of not having the pieces a freshman Gutierrez had around him

Final: U of A, 79-58

-Sueing with 19 and 9 on 6-17 shooting

-Marcus Lee with only 4 and 2 early, Okoroh was more effective with 10, made an elbow jumper in addition to a couple turnarounds

- 35% shooting from the field 7.7% from 3. Forced 21 turnovers, gave it up 14 times. Can’t shoot like that and compete with a team with as much skill as Arizona

- Forced a few turnovers with the press, starting to understand the schematics, which traps are the most effective. Still giving up open looks from beyond the arc. Got a number of good looks from 3, about as solid as UA, couldn’t knock them down.

Arizona State, Saturday Night

Better showing from the crowd for Jason Kidd bobblehead night

Cal Starters: McNeill, Harris-Dyson, Sueing, Okoroh, Lee

ASU Starters: Evans II, Justtice, Holder, Shibel, White

First Half:

- Lineup changes, Coleman off the bench as the 6th man, man defense while hedging screens, like what Arizona did to them.

- Reasoning for the first point from Jones, wanted to throw bigger guard in JHD at the ASU guards.

- Reasoning for the second point was based on ASU’s shooting from deep, wanted to stymie 3 point shooters (6 ASU players made a 3)

- Corner trap worked early, forcing a timeout, Okoroh got an early block.

- Lee had first 7 points, JHD was the first Bear to score not named Lee.

- Traveling calls on Lee and Okoroh early, as Sueing picked up two fouls in the first 5:15. Kept him in until he picked up his 3rd at the 11:43 mark

- More of Coleman at the point, earliest part of feeding the post and cutting off the bigs. JHD one of the most successful cutters, though Coleman and Sueing looked solid in that regard.

- Mitchell with a ton of energy for ASU, made both of their 3s in the first half, good rebounder, got a block.

- Cal’s boxing out on the weakside conntinued to be an issue, 8 offensive rebounds allowed to a smaller ASU front.

- Lee playing like the player that they expected. Calling for the ball, backing down in the post, passing out when needed, getting solid looks at the rim. 13-6 in the first half

- McNeill breaking out of a slump, 2 threes, a press break leading to a massive alley-oop to Lee. More confidence for him, got a block leading to a coast to coast and-1.

- Okoroh got blocked twice despite being the tallest player on the court, shouldn’t happen.

- Lee’s intensity was sustained unlike against UA

- Bench points for ASU showcasing the difference between the two teams. 25 bench points in the first half for the Sun Devils, 4 for Cal.

First half: ASU up 41-30.

Mitchell with 10-7 for ASU, Lee with 13-6. 8 players scored for ASU. 5 players scored for Cal. ASU 24-15 rebounding advantage. 5 turnovers on each side. Sueing,Roman Davis, Nick Hamilton and Deschon Winston all did not score. 12-31 shooting for Cal (38.7%) 2-9 from 3, 16-35 for ASU (45.7%), 2-8 from 3.

Second Half

- Sueing running off screens to start the half, hits a three early

- ASU firing back, missed first 6 threes, made their next six, including four of four to start the half.

- This is the point where Cal started running their offense through Lee and Okoroh, lot of passes into the post with cuts off of them. Passing looking more crisp in that regard, JHD a very willing cutter, along with Sueing and Coleman.

- One improvement is the entry passes, as a year ago, Rabb couldn’t seem to get a good entry pass from his guards. That area of the game has improved in spades. Still need work on decisiveness from Okoroh, Lee is getting better in his decision-making.

- Free throws an issue, Bears shoot 8-15 from the line in the half, Lee is 3-10 for the game

- Despite ASUs hot shooting, Bears cut the lead all the way down to 4, forced four turnovers relatively quickly, led to easier offense, got hands up in the paint, started making more shots. Still allowed 50% shooting from the half. Martin from ASU was extremely quick getting into the lane and passing out to open shooters.

- Cal played only six players in the second half, starters plus Coleman

- Lee fouled out two members of ASU’s front line in Lake and White.

- Five Bears finished in double figures, Lee and JHD the only of those to finish shooting over 50%

- Another block by McNeill, whose length is at times underappreciated.

- While Cal managed to cut the deficit to 4, ASU managed to hit a number of threes, some open, some tough. A Kodi Justice fadeaway turnaround 3 late in the clock comes to mind in the latter category.

- 44 points in the paint for the Bears, 15 on the break, including a Coleman steal leading to a McNeill corner 3. Big disparity in bench points, 41-10 favoring ASU

Final: ASU 81-73. Bears shot 16-29 in the second half (3-7 from 3), ASU was 13-26 in the half (8-13 from 3) Lee finished with 23-8. 8 players with at least six points for ASU. Man hedging forced shots later in the clock, Bears played solid man defense though some of the switches needed work. Only allowed one offensive rebound in the second half.

Summary:

There’s still problems endemic to this team. They’re still allowing a number of open 3s, though they’re keeping them away from the corner for the most part. They’re forcing more turnovers and playing better defense, it’s just a matter of doing more of it. One thing that sealed the deal for ASU was a late 3 where Sueing gambled to try and jump a passing lane. He didn’t get there in time, his man got the ball, and sealed the deal from the corner. That’s youth and experience at play.

The depth issues are still at play, it’s hard to get scoring at points when Sueing and McNeill are off the floor. Sueing’s foul trouble got them down early in a hole they couldn’t pull themselves out of against ASU.

In all, this team hasn’t given up. The losses do sting a lot, and they should. The hope around the team is that the adversity will build into growth as the year goes on. There appears to be improvement though, which is worth seeing as they head down to play the LA schools next week.