After losing all three games in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational, including a shocking 96-72 loss to Division II Chaminade, first-year California coach Wyking Jones said it was time to “go back to the drawing board.” The Golden Bears, who bounced back with a 83-63 victory over Cal State Northridge, will try and make it two in a row when they host East Bay rival Saint Mary’s on Saturday night.
Jones decided to start 6-7 freshman Justice Sueing at the power forward spot and move 7-1 senior center Kingsley Okoroh to the bench for the win over the Matadors, and the move paid big dividends. “You have to guard him (on the perimeter) because he’s shooting 40 percent from 3-point range,” Jones said of Sueing, who finished with seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. “It opened up some driving lanes and gave our offense a better flow.” Meanwhile, Okoroh had six points, four rebounds and six blocks off the bench. “I‘m so proud of him accepting his role of coming off the bench,” Jones said. “He was our defensive player of the game tonight.”
TV: 11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT SAINT MARY‘S (5-2): The Gaels fell out of the top 25 this week after suffering back-to-back losses to Washington State (84-79) and Georgia (83-81) in the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif. Jock Landale, a 6-11 senior center, is averaging nearly a double-double for the Gaels, leading the team in scoring (20.4) and rebounding (8.6) while shooting 64.8 percent from the floor. Forward Calvin Hermanson (14.4 points) and guard Emmett Naar (14.3), who joined Landale on the preseason All-West Coast Conference team, also are averaging in double figures with Naar also leading the squad in assists (9.0) which ranks second nationally.
ABOUT CALIFORNIA (3-4): Junior guard Don Coleman leads the Bears in scoring (22.7) which also ranks 19th nationally. Sueing (13.4) and fellow freshman Darius McNeill (13.0) are also averaging in double digits with McNeill, who originally signed with Iowa State, shooting a team best 51.5 percent (17-of-33) from 3-point range. Marcus Lee, a 6-11 senior transfer from Kentucky, is also averaging in double figures (11.0 points) and leads the team in rebounding (8.9).
1. Cal tied its school record with 11 blocks against Cal State Northridge and ranks fifth nationally with 46 total blocks.
2. The Bears have just two returning letterwinners from last season’s 21-13 squad which ties James Madison for fewest in the nation.
3. Saint Mary’s is second in the country in assist to turnover ratio (2.15).
PREDICTION: Saint Mary’s 84, Cal 75