California Golden Bears Basketball Survives Finals and the Cal-Poly Mustangs

I was really curious to see what type of energy the team would have to start this game.  You have a number of freshmen having just finished their first college finals, possible hangover from last weeks disappointing late collapse, and a trap game against a lightly-regarded opponent before the #3 Jayhawks roll into town.

Even better, Cal-Poly is known for slowing the game down and playing a mix of zone/zone trap.

No problem!  You can counter a slow-tempo team with a dominant point guard and defeat a zone with crisp passing and smart decisions with the ball.  Ruh roh...


 

It was an absolutely hideous start to the game.  We're talking no-amount-of-booze-will-make-me-say-yes ugly.  We're talking People of Walmart ugly.  We're even talking furd cheer squad ugly.  I think my eyes are still bleeding.

As a silver lining, our bigs were dominant down low.  Kamp, MSF, and Solomon were all very active.  They were establishing great position and scored fairly consistently when we could get them the ball.  Unfortunately, we got them the ball about as often as we tackled Kapaernick on the zone read. 

This sets up the debate for the ages.  What is the most likely event?

1)  A Cal QB completes a swing pass to an open receiver.
2)  The Cal guards work the ball around the perimeter and deliver the ball on time and accurately to a well-positioned post man.
3)  Newly-available Scarlett Johanssen shows up on your doorstep and asks you out.

Yeah.  I'm thinking about putting on some cologne, too.

I know building a team from young players is a laborious process.  I didn't realize that it could literally be brick by brick.

The Franklin/Carter minutes debate looked settled early.  Franklin went out with two fouls in about two minutes.  I think he gets a framed picture of the Hughes brothers as a prize.  Unfortunately, Lord Nigel's shooting stroke might still be in one of the campus libraries and he had trouble handling the ball all game.

With about 6 minutes to go in the first half, it was still 10-7 Cal.  And then things got wild.  A flurry of made jumpshots brought the 1st half score to...wait for it...19-12 Cal.  Awwwww yeah.  You can only hope to contain us. 

Fortunately, our effort on defense and on the defensive glass was solid.  We "held" Cal-Poly to 15% shooting.  One thing that was nice to see was a more consistent effort fighting through screens and closing out on shooters.  Guys were also showing better awareness of when to help out.

I can neither confirm nor deny whether Monty brought a cattle prod with him for his halftime talk.

However, the second half started with more of the same...except that Cal Poly cut the lead by finding ways to work the ball inside for layups.  It's not good when our most successful offensive plays involved Franklin pulling up for contested jumpers.  Fortunately, he was hitting them today.

It was an interesting wrinkle seeing Franklin running the point with Jorge on the wing.  I wonder if Monty has decided to abandon the Jorge as a PG experiment.  It's a move that could really help both players.  Jorge plays better off the ball and can conserve his energy.  Franklin actually looks like he has a better handle than Jorge and appeared very confident with the ball in his hands.  He was used to running the point in HS.  If he knows it's his job to initiate the offense instead of just scoring as the shooting guard...maybe it keeps his shot selection under control?  Or, it could be like blood in the water...

I still like the ice in his veins.  He's certainly not afraid to take the big shot....or the little shot...or any shot, really.

Cal-Poly made a smart move in the 2nd half by trying to isolate our guards one on one.  Their best player, Lewis, took advantage of Crabbe with his superior strength.  And then he abused Smith on the post.  I'm surprised we haven't seen more teams try to post up Smith so far.  This could really be an issue because the Pac-10 features a lot of strong/athletic guards.

Although our offense was a little more productive thanks to Franklin's outside shooting and MSF's steady post play, Cal-Poly was able to keep it close with the assistance of some egregiously one-sided officiating. 

It's got to be frustrating to Monty that we've got a formidable inside game, but either can't get the ball there or don't even bother trying.

Jorge swung the game the wrong way when his poor shot selection turned into consecutive transition baskets the other way and let them tie it up with 3 minutes to play. 

This had all the makings of another epic collapse.

Then Crabbe, who had been quiet all night, calmly hits a go-ahead 3 for his first points of the day.  MSF out-wills the entire Cal-Poly team for a offensive board and putback.  And Jorge draws a charge on their best player.  In a nutshell, these are your Bears.  We're going to need clutch contributions from our youth, determined play from our veteran bigs, and hustle on D.

The Ugly:  Our first half offense.  We really struggled with our ball movement, decision-making, and couldn't hit the broadside of the barn.  It looked like the event staff was preparing to hand out helmets and mouthguards to the fans sitting around the basket.  We continue to have issues with turnovers.


The Bad:  Unfortunately, it was another forgettable game for Brandon Smith.  He wasn't able to create shots, hit shots, and was exposed as a liability on defense.

I know Jorge was trying to make something happen.  But he was pressing again.  Instead of running the offense, he forced drives when there weren't any openings and settled far too often for contested jumpers.


The Good:

When we needed to make plays to close out the game, we did and used a 10-0 run to put them away.

Great minutes from Solomon.  He looks like he might have moved ahead of Bak Bak again.

Although we didn't get a lot of offense from Crabbe/Carter, they played solid defense and helped out on the glass.  I love Crabbe's confidence in taking and nailing a clutch 3 when the game looked like it was slipping away.

Franklin had a break-through game.  Monty may be onto something with playing him at the point.  He was generally under control and hit some big shots when we really needed them in the 2nd half.  I can't believe I'm typing this...but the offense actually ran smoother with Franklin at the helm than Jorge or Smith.  Clearly it's time to start singing glorious...victorious...

MSF was simply a beast.  Much respect to him for playing through his injuries and battling all game long.  He's been carrying us.  It's really nice to see a senior work his tail off(literally) in the off-season and show the improvements on the court.  He's been the best low-post player we've had in years.

Anyhow, there's not much time to bask in the afterglow of this...masterpiece.  Fresh off a nail-biting win over the surprising Trojans, the Kansas Jayhawks are a'comin' and they're probably looking to work out their angst by pounding us into a blue and gold pulp.  So what if they have all-world super-frosh, Josh Selby.  Jorge has better hair.  (We get bonus points for that, right?) 

One thing I love about this team - We may not always play well, but Monty has them playing hard.  Let's do this.  Go Bears!

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