Three takeaways from Cal's 70-62 loss to 25th-ranked Arizona State .in Thursday's Pac-12 opener at Haas Pavilion:
---1. The state of Cal basketball is such that the Bears were basically pleased with the way they played even though they lost.
---2. Cal lost Thursday's game for two reasons: The Bears committed 20 turnovers, and Remy Martin plays for Arizona State.
---3. To a large extent Cal will live and die with the three-points shot, a dramatic departure from last season.
OK, so let's start with takeaway No. 1. With Arizona State guard Alonzo Verge Jr. and his 15.0-point scoring average absent for the second straight game for virus-related issues, there was a thought that Cal maybe, just maybe, could give the heavily favoried Sun Devils a scare.
The Bears (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) did that, trailing by three points with 3:26 to go. Cal could not finish it off, but coach Mark Fox was generally pleased with the team's showing.
"We played a nationally ranked team, a team that a lot of people think have a chance to win the Pac-12," Fox said, "and we got to the last two or three minutes with a chance to win.
"We did a lot of things we wanted to do to give ourselves a chance to win. We made too many errors that cost us a chance to win, but we did a lot of things, that if we repeat them, will give us a chance to win."
Cal outrebounded ASU 36-27, including 11-3 on the offensive boards, and prevented Sun Devils freshman Josh Christopher from exploding offensively, holding him to 14 points..
"We played well for 37 minutes or so," Cal guard Ryan Betley said in the video below.
It all provides hope. But it says something about a team's status when it is pleased about its performance in a loss. Cal needs to progress to the point where only wins warrant self-congratulation.
On to takeaway No. 2
Cal committed 20 turnovers, and any chance Cal had of pulling off the upset was doomed by making that many errors..
"It's hard to win any games when you have 20 turnovers," said Betley, who had five turnovers himself. "[If] we have half that, I think it's a much different game."
Maybe. But Martin's presence prevented any chance for an upset Thursday. He ruined Cal last year when he had 25 points and five assists while hitting all three of his three-point attempts in the Sun Devils' only game against Cal. And he did it again Thursday, on the same, floor, collecting 22 points, five assists and two steals while generally taking charge of everything.
"He's just terrific," Fox said. "He controlled the game."
Finally takeaway No. 3:
Cal attempted 26 three-point shots on Thursday, more than the Bears attempted in any game against a Division I opponent last season. Last season, Cal attempted only 14.3 three-point shots per game, the fewest in the Pac-12 and among the fewest in the country. Through four games this season, Cal is averaging 24.3 three-point-shot attempts per game, among the Pac-12 leaders in that category.
The addition of grad transfers Betley and Makale Foreman are a major reason for that shift, and they were a combined 5-for-13 from long range Thursday. But the rest of the team was just 2-for-13, and that included 1-for-9 by Matt Bradley, who still had a team-high 20 points on 7-of-21 shooting overall while also picking up eight rebounds.
Fox presumably will continue to give Bradley, Foreman and Betley the green light to take threes, but the Bears must do better than the 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) that they shot against ASU.
NOTES: Cal freshman Monty Bowser was held out of Thursday's game for precautionary reasons, but he is expected back soon. He was taken to the hospital after taking a hard fall in Monday's game.
Arizona State freshman Marcus Bagley suffered a leg injury in the second half that forced him to leave the game. He was helped off the court, and it is unclear whether he will miss any games.
Cover photo by D. Ross Cameron, USA TODAY Sports
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