November 27, 2010
As impressive as Cal looked in upsetting New Mexico and Temple earlier this month, the most memorable aspect of the Bears' early-season schedule will almost certainly be Friday's clunker of a first half in a 57-44 loss to Notre Dame.
That's because Cal made just two first-half buckets and trailed 21-5 at halftime.
Roster turnover and a lack of preseason practice time make clumsy early performances all too common in college basketball, yet few teams have looked more inept for as long a stretch as the Bears did against the Irish. Cal committed 11 first-half turnovers, missed 23 of 25 field goal attempts and went the final 10:44 before halftime without scoring a single point.
"I was trying to do the math. I've never had 21 points at halftime and been up 16," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told reporters after the game.
Neither the five-point half nor the lengthy scoreless drought were NCAA records, though both approached the worst we've seen since the advent of the shot clock in college basketball in 1986.
Savannah State set the modern record for fewest points in a half when it got outscored by Kansas State 48-4 in the second half of an 82-25 loss on Jan. 7, 2008. And Texas A&M owns the modern record for the longest scoring drought after going scoreless for an incredible 16:08 against Oklahoma during a 64-37 loss on March 1, 2008.
Although Cal will probably crack double digits by halftime in most of its games the rest of the season, Friday's offensive futility doesn't come as a huge shock since the Bears lost all five starters from last year's Pac-10 championship team. The Bears' blueprint for victories this season will be to crash the offensive glass and parlay stiff defense into transition buckets, something Notre Dame effectively took away on Friday.
The record for fewest points in a shot clock-era game belongs to Rick Majerus' first Saint Louis team, which lost 49-20 to George Washington in 2008. Cal avoided challenging that record with a better performance after halftime, scoring 39 second-half points to make the final score more respectable.
"If somebody picked up the paper they'd say, 'Ah, they lost to Notre Dame by 13," Cal coach Mike Montgomery told reporters. "But if you watched it, you'd have a little different impression."