Monty opted to go small and started a four guard line-up of Smith, Gutierrez, Cobbs, Crabbe, and Kamp. The Bears went zone on D and pushed it on offense.
Initially, the small-ball attack clicked nicely with several cuts and drives leading to consecutive layups. Unfortunately, the zone had to be abandoned after giving up too many easy boards on the other end.
The teams exchanged runs back and forth. Crabbe had 7 early before Cobbs chipped in with another 9. Then, disaster struck as Kamp picked up his 2nd foul diving for a loose ball. Although the Bears held the line for a while with Kravish and Thurman in, it got really desperate when Jorge caught an elbow to the face and had to sit. Monty had to roll the dice with a lineup of Smith, Cobbs, Crabbe, Bak, and Thurman...and it came up snake-eyes. The Aztecs went on a 14-3 run to close the half up 33-25. The inability to stop dribble penetration and to convert opportunities at the free-throw line hurt almost as much as shooting 33% from the field. After moving the ball well early, the Bears struggled with the Aztecs' pressure and settled for too many contested jumpers.
Monty switched gears right out of the gate and started a 2nd half line-up of Cobbs, Gutierrez, Crabbe, Kamp, and Kravish. With a better presence on the boards and more patience on offense, the Bears quickly cut the lead to four. SDSU responded, but then Crabbe was grabbed on the break and the Aztecs were called for an intentional foul. After a sweet Kamp dish to Kravish for a dunk, the game was tied. You could see the Bears' renewed intensity as they crashed the offensive boards again and again while seeming to out-fight the Aztecs for every loose ball.
But every time the Bears drew even, the Aztecs went on a mini-run of their own. Although San Diego State couldn't press their advantage down low, their guards were as dangerous as advertised. Cal countered by feeding Kravish. Playing big minutes on the road didn't faze the true freshman at all as he scored 8 points on perfect 4-4 shooting. After getting burned by going to the bench in the 1st half, Monty rode his starters the whole way. But, the tide finally turned when Kamp picked up his 4th foul with approximately 5 minutes to play. With Kamp on the bench, the Aztecs started extending possessions by crashing the offensive glass. Cobbs went down moments later with a frightening spill off a missed layup with cramp in his calf.
The Bears battled gamely, but it seemed like their legs finally wore down as shots just wouldn't go down on offense and they started committing more fouls on defense. The Aztecs took advantage of 4 fouls on Kamp, Kravish, and Jorge to carve out a slim lead. Although the Bears stepped up on defense to force key misses in crunch time, it was the inability to secure the rebounds afterwards that ultimately doomed them. A desperate 3 from Crabbe drew the Bears within 1 with seconds to play...but no one remembered to foul and time expired.
It was an admirable effort from the short-handed Bears. Unfortunately, this game also emphasized many of our weaknesses; difficulties handling athletic guards, and a significant drop-off from starters to reserves. Although Kravish and Cobbs stepped up as expected, it was our bench which allowed San Diego State to close the 1st half with a 8-0 run. Playing from behind took its toll and proved to be the difference in the game. It's going to be a tightrope act all year as Monty balances developing his bench with winning games. If he's going to keep such a short rotation, our starters are going to have to be really careful to avoid cheap fouls.
Fortunately, the Bears have the next three at home against the likes of San Jose State, Jackson State, and Weber State. Time to regroup and get better. Go Bears!