Usually for easy Cal wins, there are plenty of little things a fan can critique. Bad turnovers. Iffy shot selection. Execution errors on defense. Something. I . . . I don't really have anything for this one.
Tonight the Bears jumped out to a 15-2 lead, expanded it to 32-7, 58-16 and 74-29, before bringing on the end of the bench for the last few minutes. San Jose St. never had a run and Cal never relented, and the result was one of the single most lopsided games I can recall in my 15 or so years following Cal basketball.
In past games in which Cal gets a big early lead, Monty typically turns to the bench and Cal's opponent claws their way back to within, say, 20 points. Not this time. Bak Bak, Emerson Murray, Jeff Powers and Robert Thurman all got multiple minutes, and didn't just help maintain the lead - they helped expand it.
I'm not going to pretend that the Spartans are a good team, but they had at least been competitive in most of their games. This match-up was a perfect storm of one team executing nearly flawlessly and another team that couldn't do anything right. When SJSU got a rare offensive rebound they blew the put-back layup. When Cal turned the ball over they double dribble during the 2-on-1 fast break. And they couldn't hit shots, finishing the game at 20% from the field, 15% from three.
The question is if there is anything meaningful to take away from this game. It's definitely meaningful to note that Justin Cobbs started over Brandon Smith and again had an impressive performance, finishing with 10 points and 5 assists in just 23 minutes, with Monty calling him one of Cal's 5 best players. It might be meaningful to note a solid performance from Cal's bench (26 points, 20 rebounds, 7 assists), depending on your opinion what it means to play well against San Jose St.
Beyond that, it's just a great performance against an overmatched team. I was most happy to see a consistently strong defensive performance. I'm reasonably confident that Cal can score points against every team left on the schedule, but defense is still something of a question mark. Granted, they clearly caught SJSU on a bad shooting night but 36 points must mean something good, right? The Spartans came into today's game shooting a ton of 3's, but less than 25% of their shots were from behind the arc and they only made 2-13. It's nice to see them taking away a team's strength, regardless of the quality of opposition.
Individual player notes (bench only, because I can't say we learned anything new about the starters):
Kravish - rebounding machine, block machine. Short guys need to stop trying to shoot over him.
Murray - looked more confident and assertive, sank a three and had a few nice aggressive moves to the basket
Bak - Very active on the board, also looked much more confident on both ends. Didn't let a few bogus block calls change his play.
Thurman - A couple of Markhuri-style moves in the paint.
Powers - Dude can hit a 3. He'll never get on the court ahead of Jorge, Cobbs and Crabbe, but if we needed him to make a 3 at the end of the game I wouldn't feel uncomfortable with him in there.
Up next is a Jackson St. squad that is probably worse than San Jose St., so it may be a bit of a wait for competitive basketball. I'll add the glorious charts of victory when they're available, but for now enjoy a win and the return of this team to full strength.