Bears have no answer for Franks’ hot hand
PULLMAN, Wash. — Well, that took all of two weeks.
Cal went from tied atop the Pac-12 standings to being knotted with the conference’s cellar-dwellers after a 78-53 loss to Washington State on Saturday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum.
The Bears (7-11, 1-4 Pac-12) have lost four in a row by an average of 16.5 points since coming back from down 17 points to beat Stanford in the conference opener.
Cal lost in The Palouse for the first time since 2012 and got swept on the Washington swing for the first time since 2011, running into many of the same problems that have been present since the Dec. 30 shocker at Stanford.
“For me as the coach, I’m just wondering which team is going to show up,” Cal head coach Wyking Jones said. “There’s a team that battles and competes and executes and follows the game plan, and there’s the team that looks like this.”
Cal had won four of five, including the Pac-12 opener, but that version of the team has been nowhere to find during the past two weeks. Slogging
through a four-game losing streak, the Bears have twice set season lows in scoring and once allowed a seasonhigh total on the other end.
Against Washington State, they took the frailty to a new level, showing little resistance as Robert Franks hit a school-record 10 three-pointers and scored 34 points.
“When a kid’s shooting the ball like that, he deserves to get the record,” Jones said. “The problem I have is with my guys. Somebody has to step up and say: ‘He’s not going to get five, six, seven, eight.’
“My guys have to step up, give more effort, be tougher and do a better job of defending that.”
The Cougars (9-8, 1-4), the only team projected to finish behind Cal in the Pac-12, had lost eight of 10 games since winning the Wooden Legacy tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. But they treated Cal as if it were IUPUI or Bethune-Cookman, the two teams they beat during the stretch.
Washington State limited Cal to 31.8 percent shooting from the floor and 16.7 percent shooting from threepoint range. The Bears matched their season low with six assists and committed 14 turnovers.
On the other end, the Cougars shot 56.9 percent from the floor and 53.6 percent from three-point range, outscoring Cal 45-12 from behind the arc. Washington State had 22 assists, including 15 combined from Drick Bernstine and Kwinton Hinson.
Cal’s entire roster has only 15 assists in the past two games. The Bears didn’t record their first assist until 11 minutes into the game Saturday, when Justice Sueing found Nick Hamilton in transition for a three-point play that tied it 17-17.
After missing 11 of its first 12 three-point tries, Cal got one to fall three minutes into the second half. That only seemed to spark Washington State, which responding by rattling off an 11-2 run that included Franks’ fourth, fifth and sixth three-pointers to extend its lead to 48-36 with 14 minutes to play.
“That’s just mental toughness, being hungry and wanting to fight,” Jones said. “I need guys out there who are going to fight and who have a little edge to them. Moving forward, that’s the direction I’m going in.”
The Cougars went in that direction, stretching their lead to 65-46 at the 6:06 mark on — what else? — a three-pointer by Franks. The 6-foot-7 forward made his school-record 10th threepointer with 43 seconds left, and head coach Ernie Kent called a timeout so the forward could soak in moment.
“My emotions were high,” Franks said. “I give a lot of praise to my teammates. They saw I was hot, and they kept feeding me. They wanted me to shoot it, and they wanted me to set the record.”
Cal’s Justice Sueing tries to get off a shot against Washington State as Jeff Pollard and Robert Franks defend. Sueing scored a team-high 14 points.