San Diego State 77, Cal 57: Three Man Team

Harper Kamp: 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting, 6 of 7 from the line, 4 rebounds, 3 assists.
Markhuri Sanders-Frison: 8 points on 3 of 8 shooting, 12 rebounds (5 offensive).
Jorge Gutierrez: 19 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 9 of 9 from the line
Rest of team: 12 points on 4 of 20 shooting, 0 of 7 from downtown, 10 turnovers.

That could pretty much be my whole recap of the California Golden Bears losing to the San Diego St. Aztecs. When you have four freshmen, two sophomores and a walk-on seeing significant playing time, these performances are inevitable. It's a wonder Cal was still within striking distance early in the second half when they were getting nothing from anyone other than their three vets. Once Sanders-Frison started hobbling up, the dam finally burst, and Cal found themselves playing the fourteenth best team in the country.

Weird part is that Cal didn't really even play that badly. They played sound defense for most of the game and kept the possessions down. But once the offense started to get going on both sides, the pace favored the Aztecs, who imposed their athleticism and transition game on the Golden Bears.

The strategy for the Bears early on defensively was to crowd the post and force SDSU to make outside shots, and for the entire first half it seemed to work. Aztec star Kawhi Leonard was held down to 7 points on 7 shots and missed both his free throws, so Steve Fisher turned to his bench and got James Rahon cooking with three three pointers to give SDSU the majority of their offense. Eleven points in all in the first half, giving San Diego State a two point lead over Cal.

It was good the defense was working, because the Cal offense sure wasn't. The Golden Bears shot 7 for 29 from the field, and all those buckets came from their veterans. San Diego State came right back with excellent man-to-man defense on that side of the ball. Kamp and Gutierrez particularly kept the offense going. Kamp was particularly excellent, scoring via a straight post up, assisting to Sanders-Frison from the free throw circle to help him earn two free throws, taking his man off the dribble. Gutierrez scored some tough points off a scoop shot, drew three free throws at the end of the first half, and showed increased touch on his outside jumper coming off of screens.

However, this story is written more about the young rather than the seasoned. It didn't quite show so clearly until Sanders-Frison had to come back to the bench, but you could start seeing the cracks form. Like Richard Solomon not fighting over two screens when the big blocked out Gutierrez, letting D.J. Gay get two spot-up three pointers that broke the game open for SDSU for good.  Or Gary Franklin shooting a lot of ill-advised jumpers and losing his man in transition. Or Brandon Smith not being on the same page with his bigs, ending up with three turnovers. Or Bak Bak letting a few passes slip through his fingers. Allen Crabbe acquitted himself alright--his shot was off, but he played pretty good defense on the athletically superior Leonard for most of the game. Not much he could do about some of the shots Leonard made. Montgomery was seriously agitated about some of the transition defense, as the Aztecs leaked out the entire second half, picking up 12 of their 16 fast break points and some ridiculously easy scores that made the defeat look worse than it actually was.

San Diego State is very good. They're better than us, and there's no shame in losing to them. Based on the effort we put up, I'd say we're about 75% as good as they are. Which is fine. We just need to brace for more games like these, because that's the only way this team will grow into the type of team San Diego State is now. GO BEARS!

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