Cal Men's basketball kicked off last night with an exhibition victory over the visiting UCSD Tritons. Although the Bears jumped out to an early 5-2 advantage thanks to some unselfish passing and Jorge's defense, it was a short-lived run. Cal went ice-cold from the perimeter while giving up an array of 3-pt shots on the other end. The problems compounded as the Golden Bear defenders continually put the UCSD players on the line. Jorge and Crabbe both picked up two fouls, and Bak Bak tried to set a record with two fouls in less than two minutes.
Although Kamp and Thurman kept the Bears hanging around with solid rebounding and some nifty hooks, the Tritons slowly built a 7 point. Then, Kravish entered the game and Monty turned the reigns of the offense over to Justin Cobbs. Kravish used his length to great effect corralling three offensive boards and blocking two shots. And Cobbs simply dominated. After missing his first driving layup attempt, he hit a reverse, then a three, and rattled off a series of And-One finishes. The Bears went on a 27-11 run to finish the half up 41-32.
After presumably getting a hefty dose of the infamous Monty wit at halftime, the Cal starters stormed out of the gates with a renewed sense of purpose. They worked it inside, picked it up on defense, and capitalized on turnovers to blow open a 27 point lead. It was extended cameos by many of the reserves the rest of the way until the buzzer sounded on a 88-53 Golden Bear victory. All credit to the UCSD Tritons for playing some tough ball, especially in the first half. Here's wishing them good luck for their upcoming season.
Some individual player observations after the jump:
Jorge - Solid and ferocious. Almost unfair to unleash him on a Div-II guard.
Smith - Steady. Didn't try to do too much. Looked poised and confident.
Crabbe - Unselfish early and showed an deft touch in setting up teammates. Got caught on perimeter screens in the 1st half, but really picked it up defensively in the second. Shows the ability to score in bursts at any time.
Kamp - Strong presence on the glass and in the post.
Solomon - Looks stronger and more assertive, but was pressing offensively. Charged twice and missed a number of short hooks and shots in the paint. Seemed like he was trying to do too much.
Cobbs - Better than advertised on defense. Very strong with the ball. Got to the rim whenever he wanted. Good ability to finish after contact. Did a good job keeping the offense flowing and setting up teammates.
Thurman - Looks like he'll be a contributor. A little rough on defense at times, but knows how to move without the ball and showed a nifty touch with both hands.
Bak - Looks like he has a better idea of where he's supposed to be on the floor. Still inconsistent on both ends.
Powers - Might be our microwave off the bench as long as he can hold his own on D.
Kravish - Really impressive for a young guy. Great feet. Uses his length well and knows where to be. Blocked 5(!) shots and lead the team with 8 boards.
Murray - Played sparingly. Athletic, but jumper still a work in progress. Looks capable of playing more, but tough to find minutes for him.
Behrens - Only played at the end and might have hurt himself. Looks like a blueshirt.
Rossi - DNP, still recovering from his abdominal injury
And some courtside insight from Avinash of Pacific Takes:
Allen Crabbe. What can I say? He was good last year. He's good this year. But he's physically much stronger. He was hopping on those dunks. Only got a few glimpses, but I'm liking what I'm seeing.
Harper Kamp seemed to have problems with the refs all night, and looked angry that he wasn't getting enough calls while he got whistled for a few questionables. Kamp looked a little tentative early about that knee, but he rounded into form in the second half and was back to the same old Harper.
Jorge Gutierrez is clearly part of the offense, but he's no longer going to carry the offense with guys like Crabbe and Cobbs on the floor. Didn't see a lot of him tonight (and of course he got his usual customary 'injury' driving into contact), but he generally took a backseat tonight. Well, you know, other than that basketball he wrestled away from a Triton. Jorge's casa no es su casa.
Richard Solomon looks much more physically comfortable, but he still doesn't have the body to bang down low. Cal established him in the post a couple of times, but he couldn't back his man back and get strong post position. This is a Division II big man. Solomon did try to do a little bit as a slasher, which was funny to watch since defenders got in position quickly to draw his charges. Still, there are positives. He showed he can finish in the fast break and his athleticism is probably second only to Crabbe--got a few steals by simply being that much better than his man. I think if the guards work on distributing the ball to him, he'll gain more confidence as the season goes on as a finisher. He also had one of the best passes of the night from the high post to Gutierrez early on. I hope we'll see more of that.
Robert Thurman looks exactly as we thought he would look from the exhibitions. Has a nice little jump hook. Clearly been working with Markhuri on that.
There are a lot more permutations for lineups this year, as Monty seemed to keep on making random patterns. I think this might happen a lot during our OOC slate where Monty can find out who he's comfortable putting in the game at the same time, especially during our home games. It's nice for once to have a unit of guys that runs eight-nine deep as opposed to the six-seven players we ran into the ground the past two years.
Jeff Powers is there to provide a breather on the wing. Definitely looked confident when he was left wide open, which could happen a lot if you put two of Cobbs/Crabbe/Jorge on the floor with him. Perfectly serviceable as your backup 3, even though he wasn't really attacked defensively.
David Kravish is going to play this year. Maybe ten minutes a game, maybe two, but I can tell immediately he has that instinct Monty loves in his players. Guys blew by him on several occasions, but he didn't give up on the play and almost immediately reached from behind and had huge blocks! I don't think I've ever seen a guy notch five blocks at Cal coming from behind. I expect him to develop into a fan favorite as the years go by.
Concerns: Defense, Rebounding
We played a lot of man defense and struggled a bit early. Although UCSD's best player is their center, Hatch, neither Kamp nor Solomon were ever really able to lock him down. Similarly, our reserve bigs got caught of position and had to reach more than a few times. On the perimeter, guys were getting having trouble fighting through screens and gave up some open shots early. Fortunately, the effort and focus both picked up noticeably in the second half.
Bright Spots: Cobbs, Kravish, Thurman
It'll be interesting to see how Cobbs fares against bigger and more athletic guards, but he certainly brings a slashing presence to the Bear's backcourt. He looks like he'll be a great fit in the guard rotation with Smith/Jorge/Crabbe. If he can continue to get into the paint, it really adds a dimension to the Cal offense to open things up both outside and for cutters.
Thurman looks capable of spelling Kamp/Solomon as needed. And, Kravish will definitely contribute this year. If his strong play continues, I suspect he'll pass Bak in the depth chart.
It's hard to know exactly how much to take from an exhibition game against a Div-II opponent. I'm sure Monty gave his bench a lot more run than usual to check out different combinations of players. There was a lot to like about the newcomers; now let's see how they do as the level of competition gets tougher.
The best part of the night: Cal Basketball is back! Go Bears!