California looks to improve its overall record when it tips off against Idaho State on Wednesday night, opening a stretch of four consecutive home nonconference basketball games in Berkeley.
The Golden Bears (4-5, 1-1 in Pac-12) haven’t helped their chances of eventually landing an NCAA Tournament bid by losing four of their first seven nonconference games, including an 80-67 stunner in the opener against UC San Diego.
But the start of Pacific-12 Conference play has helped Cal steady the ship. The Golden Bears followed up a 65-57 nonconference win over previously unbeaten Fresno State with a split of their first two Pac-12 games, including a 73-61 home victory over Oregon State.
The Idaho State game begins a stretch in which Cal also hosts Santa Clara, Dartmouth, and Pacific before returning exclusively to Pac-12 competition after the first of the year.
The Golden Bears are coming off a 66-58 loss at Utah on Sunday in which Andre Kelly, their top scorer and rebounder, struggled against a sagging defense and managed just four points on 2-for-6 shooting.
Cal coach Mark Fox knows it won’t be the last time his team sees the opponent take the approach of making someone else beat them.
“We worked on that, and I thought we were prepared for that,” Fox said of double-teaming tactics on the 6-foot-8, 255-pound Kelly, who scored 10 points against Oregon State and was averaging 16.4 points a game for the first eight games before Utah put the clamps on him.
“I don’t think we nearly demanded the ball well enough in the post,” Fox said. “I don’t think the post trap led us to a bunch of turnovers, but I don’t think we nearly executed with the authority that we need to on the offensive end to create advantages.”
Idaho State (1-7, 0-2 in Big Sky) will be making just its second-ever trip to Berkeley. The last time was 1975, when the Golden Bears prevailed 76-65.
The Bengals have dropped seven in a row since an opening 82-61 home win over Division III Eastern Oregon. They opened Big Sky play with a pair of home losses last week, 63-55 to Portland State and 73-70 to Northern Arizona.
Idaho State has lost its last 50 games against Power 5 conference competition dating back to a 62-57 win over Oregon in 1987.
Brayden Parker, who contributed a total of 15 points to the competitive losses to Portland State and Northern Arizona last week, warns not to underestimate this year’s edition of the Bengals.
“Being 10th in the Big Sky two years ago to being fourth this last year,” he observed, “we’re making good progress.”
Leading scorer Tarik Cool (11.9 points a game) went scoreless against Air Force before he responding with a combined 38 points in the past two games.
–Field Level Media