Watching this game killed me because I felt like we were doing the right things for the first 10 minutes of the game but we just couldn't contain Cal defensively and they lit it up from beyond the arc. Cal was the preseason pick to win the Pac-10 for a reason and they showed it on Thursday night. I wish we would stop getting teams after they get blown out but I doubt that would have helped us in this contest. Once the Bears started to rain threes, the lead got pushed up and we reverted back into the frustration that has plagued us over the last four games.
The game plan early was simple.
1) Create motion within the offense (effective)
2) Go to Dunigan down low on the block for easy buckets (not effective)
3) Play in control and limit opportunities on the defensive end (somewhat effective)
Offensively, our motion looked good especially in the first 10 minutes of the game. Cuts were sharp and the ball was passed crisply and with purpose. This gave us plenty of opportunities throughout the game to get open looks from all over the court but we couldn't take advantage. Shot selection, for the most part, was pretty good. Yes, we had the TP clank every now and then but shots were there to be made. Longmire in particular had a bad night going 0-9 from the field but he was active on the court and was trying hard to make plays, perhaps a little too hard.
Going to Dunigan on the block was a challenge because Cal's game plan was to guard him straight up and he couldn't get the ball in the hoop. He was off balance a few times but mostly just got pushed off and couldn't keep his position down low. When his shots did go up, they weren't true and most of his points came off of offensive rebounds and put backs. I liked the strategy because it looked like it would be effective going into the game and it's refreshing to have a true post presence. When that guy doesn't cause double teams however, and can't make the shots, we pay the price.
On defense, we did an ok job for about 10 minutes and then we couldn't stop the barrage of 3 point baskets from the Bears. There was a key moment in the first half where we had kept it close and a few turnovers turning into shots from beyond the arc sealed our fate. We played in control for the first part of the game but when things got out of hand, we reverted back to "rat ball" and Cal took advantage.
This was our 4th loss in a row and even though I didn't except to win, I thought the game plan in the game was sound. Armstead did a much better job in getting through screens in comparison to the Arizona game and TP was mostly in control. Armstead was the primary ball handler and we were a much more controlled team. Most of our turnovers occurred on the block with Dunigan getting stripped or when Cal made a good defensive play.
The calls for Ernie's head are growing louder and, at times, it looks like the players are trying to shoot him out the door. The staff can only get them so many open shots before they have to start getting them to fall. The talent disparity right now between Cal and Oregon is pretty telling. We may still be a young team but let's face it... most everyone in the Pac-10 is.
Cal and ASU are leading the Pac-10 right now, our other losses are to last place OSU and middle of the pack Arizona. Our stretch "should" get easier over the next few games as we start taking on more middle of the pack teams but we have to face the fact that we aren't a very good team. We may be 10-8 but without making open shots, we will be lucky to get any more wins. 12 games left before the Pac-10 tourney. Ernie will probably need 4-6 wins to save his job and after the last 2 weeks, I don't see any gimmies on the schedule.