(Ed - 11:30: Glorious charts of victory embedded below the jump!)
If we're being honest, Austin Peay (and George Washington, and UC Irvine) are teams that Cal should beat easily. But 'should' and 'did' are different words, so full credit to Monty and the Bears for quickly putting away another overmatched opponent. And considering the opposition, how Cal has won is more impressive than the fact that they won. For the 3rd straight game the Bears put on a first half clinic and essentially played a full 20 minutes of garbage time. True, this team is yet to be tested, but they look like an elite offensive team, and they look much better on defense than last year.
Admittedly, the game moved quickly into blowout territory because Austin Peay compounded their problems with bad turnovers and horrible shooting. Cal's defense was plenty good, but it wasn't 17.2%-field-goal-percentage good. The Governor's best player quickly picked up two fouls, and they managed just five field goals and went 0-9 from behind the arc, hastening their own demise.
But Austin Peay's problems didn't diminish what Cal did on offense in the first half. The Bears shot 60% from the floor and that was despite their best shooter having an uncharacteristic off-night. Harper Kamp, Richard Solomon and David Kravish all had a series of easy looks inside, Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith penetrated with relative ease and dominated in transition, and Crabbe was open with good looks outside throughout. Cal led 40-13 and it could have been worse.
And so there were 20 minutes of . . . well, garbage time seems like an exaggeration. But it certainly didn't feel like the first half. Sure, Austin Peay made a couple of mini runs, and Monty called a few obligatory timeouts to chew out the guys. And we'll probably see some post-game quotes about effort and intensity. And he's right. But I'm not going to worry too much when Jeff Powers, Bak Bak and Emerson Murray are unable to maintain a huge lead when they're playing a mid-major pre-season conference favorite.
I think the reality is that Monty has his rotation pretty set. Three bigs and four guards/wings. Kamp, Solomon and Kravish inside, Gutierrez, Crabbe, Smith and Cobbs outside. Based on everything we know and everything we see, that's a rotation that can absolutely win the conference. If Bak can quickly make up for the time he missed in the Sudan, or if Emerson Murray polishes his jump shot, then that's great. But most teams can get by with seven players that you trust on both ends of the court.
Of course, the reason I can guess that there will be a main rotation of seven players is because David Kravish continues to impress. The vast majority of freshmen are often defined by what they can't do, or by their mistakes. Right now, Kravish isn't making mistakes. 6-7 from the floor? Just one turnover? One foul in 23 minutes? And it's not like he's getting by just by not hurting the team when he's on the floor. He's making an obvious positive impact on both ends.
He's done enough that some might suggest that he start ahead of Richard Solomon. I think that's premature for a number of reasons. Solomon is the better rebounder and he'll be able to do things with his athleticism that Kravish can't right now. But it's not really an issue because they'll both be getting extensive playing time.
Like the headlines said, this was the third of three pre-tests. I'd give Cal an A for each one. But the first real test of the season begins Monday in Kansas City. Georgia, then Missouri or Notre Dame. Let's meet back next Tuesday night to see where our Bears stand.