Three-point shooting has become a major issue for Cal. After missing all six three-point attempts in its 67-62 loss to Harvard on Saturday, the Golden Bears went 0-for-13 from beyond the arc in their 79-65 loss to UCLA in their Pac-12 opener on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
Losing to the Bruins on the road is no disgrace, as UCLA and its bunch of freshman standouts seem to be getting it together.
But to finish high enough in the conference to get an NCAA Tournament berth, Cal (8-5) will have to start connecting from long range.
Cal has two of the conference's best outside shooters in Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, and they combined for 33 points, including 21 for Crabbe, the Pac-12's leading scorer. But each went 0-for-3 from behind the three-point line, and freshman Tyrone Wallace added an 0-for-4 from long range.
Teams seem to be focusing on preventing the Bears from getting good looks from outside.
"They're taking it away," Crabbe told the Oakland Tribune, regarding opponents' defensive approach on three-pointers. . "We're not trying to force three-pointers, I know I'm not. If they give me the lane, I'm going to take what they give me."
The 0-for-13 performance leaves Cal shooting 29.5 percent from three-point range for the season, and Cobbs, who hit better than 41 percent of his three-pointers a year ago, has missed his last seven three-point attempts and is shooting just 28 percent from long range. Nonetheless, he is still hitting better than 50 percent of his shots from the field overall.
Cal lost for the fifth time in its last seven games after a 6-0 start, and it faces USC in Los Angeles on Saturday, with the Trojans coming off a two-point win over Stanford.
Cal took an early 8-2 lead against the Bruins, but UCLA dominated the rest of the half to lead by 10 at intermission and stretch its lead to 16 early in the second half. Cal closed to within six at 49-43 with 13:17 left before UCLA pulled away.
UCLA, which starts three freshmen, got 19 points from freshman Kyle Anderson and 16 from fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad. The Bruins made only 4 of 12 three-point shots themselves, but they outscored Cal 23-8 from the foul line.
Cal got only four points off the bench, as backup point guard Brandon Smith missed the game with a concussion, and Ricky Krekow played only nine minutes because of recurring foot issues.
Cal did good work on the boards, collecting 19 offensive rebounds, helping the Golden Bears 18 more shots from the floor than UCLA. That's usually enough to win, but the disparity at the line as well as the goose egg on three-pointers led to a rather decisive 14-point loss.