We all knew this was coming. Teams with three contributing upperclassmen don't roll through a challenging early season schedule unscathed without multiple one and done, NBA ready type players. Cal successfully hid their deficiencies while starting the season 3-0 with surprising wins against New Mexico and Temple, but those deficiencies were on full display against Notre Dame and Boston College.
Cal's inside duo of Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison struggled to find any space inside and Jorge Guttierez, Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin were only able to punish Boston College's sagging defense for so long before their shots went cold. That happened right when Boston College heated up, and a manageable 4 point halftime deficit ballooned to 16 behind a barrage of open Eagle three pointers. Boston College never looked back as Cal's offense became more and more ragged in a 2nd half almost as ugly as the first half against Notre Dame.
We must consider what Notre Dame and Boston College did to shut Cal down offensively. Against New Mexico and Temple, Harper Kamp was almost always involved in the offense - but against Notre Dame and Boston College he and Sanders-Frison were largely rendered invisible, putting the pressure on Cal's guards to pick up the burden. Is this something that Notre Dame and Boston College are particularly equipped to do, or is this a template that teams can use for as long as Cal's guards are too green to punish teams for focusing their defensive effort inside? That's unclear. What is clear is that Cal can't afford for many players to have an off night at the same time because there isn't anybody who can take over the scoring load alone - yet.
For now we have to trust that the best thing that can happen for this team right now is to take their lumps. In both losses this weekend the team began to visibly press on both ends of the floor as the game slipped away, and at times Monty seemed content to let them play, to learn about how to react to failure. They'll get a chance to bounce back soon at home against UC Davis, and then a chance to prove themselves on the road against an undefeated Iowa St. outfit.
Here's Kodiak's live blog thoughts as the game progressed. Emphasis added by me occasionally because Kodiak's got mad insight.
BC is making a ton of substitutions early. They're really scrambling and pressing on D. With our limited depth, it remains to be seen if we have the stamina to withstand this pace for 40 minutes. It'll also be interesting to see if our young guys have the poise to put up with this relentless pressure.
Crabbe is a little tight early. Blows an open layup and then fumbles a rebound out of bounds. Youth. Playing tough D, though. And he nails a nice 3.
Kamp might still be thinking about last game. He takes a great pass from Jorge and runs over his defender. He's missed all his post ups and putbacks. Then he picks up a cheap offensive rebounding foul. Settle down, big guy.
We really need to be careful executing on offense. We can negate their press and transition game if we move the ball, play more deliberately, and get good shots. Not sure if we have the passing skills or patience to make this work.
Franklin is either going to shoot us in or out of this game....and then he might do it again. He might need to sit a bit. He's forcing things...the bad shot selection is understandable, but it really hurts when he turns it over.
The offense looks a little different today. Not seeing the ball going to the high post as much. BC plays without a center. Maybe we're trying to exploit the size mismatch by putting both bigs down low. Might need to go back to feeding the high post if we continue to have issues entering it from the wing. And just like that, first play after the timeout starts with a pass to the high post and leads to an open 3.
First action for Smith. (11 min mark) Now it gets interesting. Can he handle the press and initiate our offense? Really nice backdoor play drawn up by Monty to take advantage of their overplay on defense...and Smith throws it behind MSF.
The D isn't as sharp early. Some of that is BC's offense. They like to spread it around and run a lot of screens to get open 3's. They're playing without a center, so it will be interesting if MSF/Kamp are able to match up. Monty goes to Solomon early to help close out on their shooters. Our interior D and board work isn't as strong with this look...bad matchups.
As good an off-the ball defender Jorge is, he's having trouble with their quickness on the ball. He's been lit up for a couple of layups already.
Thank goodness the Bears re-discovered their outside shot for this game. Jorge with 3 triples, Crabbe with 2. Even Smith hit a nice deep jumper. We're having trouble consistently working it inside against their zone. If our shots stop falling...um...not going to think about that right now.
The Bears look like they weathered the early storm. They seemed a bit taken aback initially with BC's pesky energy on D and wide open attack on O. Built a small lead with solid outside shooting. Then Jorge sits down for a rest and the offense falls apart. Franklin turns it over...Solomon scores off a a great rebound/putback, and then two consecutive turnovers. And Jorge comes back in.
We're giving up way too many offensive boards to an undersized team. Our young guys aren't boxing out. Long rebounds are to be expected with the number of deep shots BC likes to take. But, their wings are soaring in and getting easy tips and put-backs to keep them in the game.
Ugh. We're reverting back to our early season perimeter D. Guys are getting caught on screens, or not switching. Their offense is pretty clever/fluid - they're taking advantage of our inexperience.
We're not able to take advantage of our size advantage down low. Their swarming zone D is forcing us to settle for outside shots. When we are able to get the ball inside, Kamp hasn't been able to convert.
Starting the 2nd half, Monty has switched to a double high post offense. Probably to make the entry passes easier. (I learned this from boomtho.) However, we're still being forced to settle for outside shots. 0-3 from deep to start the half. Crabbe has missed two, Franklin one.
For the 1st time this year, Monty's famous half-time adjustments/pep talk haven't produced the desired results. We still can't move the ball on offense, have been sloppy with our transition and perimeter D...and BC goes on an 8-0 run. Timeout, Monty. Off of the timeout he runs a clever set that gets Kamp a layup. Then we force a TO on D with a sideline trap.
Okay. Franklin has a lot of confidence. But the falling down over the head shot trying to draw a foul move is less than ideal.
Franklin and Crabbe are both struggling on offense...now it's affecting their D. Just not getting out to shooters. BC is making us pay. We need someone to settle down the offense. BC is streaky and susceptible to giving up runs. But, we need to be more disciplined on both ends.
They have better energy than we do, and it's helping them exert their will on the game. It could be because their coach is really subbing liberally and we're wearing down.
We're getting exposed at the PG position. We're really having trouble dictating tempo and getting ourselves into our sets. Because no one has really established himself as a go-to scorer, we need to get baskets within the flow of our offense or off of our defense. Unfortunately, the guys keep trying to do too much on their own. It's a repeat of our 1st half struggles against ND. Not enough patience working the ball around to get it down low. We never took advantage of our size. Instead, they won the matchup by spreading the floor with their waves of shooters.
All things considered, you'd have to consider this trip to be par. We got a win we didn't expect, then two bad losses where we got outplayed and had our inexperience exposed. It would have been nice to go 2-1, but this wasn't all that surprising. It certainly gives Monty plenty of teaching material. The guys never quit, but they couldn't match BC's energy and effort. That's probably going to get most of Monty's attention - until we learn how to play together, we'll need to make it work with grit and hustle.