It was a good early test for a young Cal team. Upsala Basket had plenty of size and clearly knew how to ball. This was a team that the Bears simply couldn't out-athlete and held their attention right up to the final buzzer. Neither Harper Kamp (knees) nor Jorge Gutierrez (ankle) played, and their absence was significant on both ends. The Cal defense was often porous, and the offensive ball movement was inconsistent at best. However, with the game in the balance, Allen Crabbe, Brandon Smith, and Richard Solomon all asserted themselves to ensure a Cal victory.
The Ugly: Cal's defense. We gave up open shots on the perimeter, and more egregiously, Upsala had their way with easy shots inside. Had the Upsala shooters been more accurate, we would have been blown out. Just like last year, we really had issues with denying dribble penetration. Although it's early, I'm concerned that this Cal team is going to have its struggles defensively like last year. We only have one shot-blocker (Solomon), and our biggest player (Thurman) has slow feet. Crabbe is smart and has length, but lacks lateral quickness. Smith wants to play tough D, but is undersized. Cobbs is a better athlete, but appears more interested in offense. Kamp and Jorge are tough, but can't do everything on their own. If any of our starters get in foul trouble, it looks like the bench has a ways to go.
After the jump, we go more in-depth.
The Bad: Our offensive ball movement really struggled in the face of hard-nosed man to man defense. We had too many unforced turnovers which speaks to the lack of dominant point guard play. Cobbs allowed himself to be taken out of this game. Murray is more of an undersized two-guard. Smith is a more willing passer, but lacks the size to deliver the ball when pressured. I'm more optimistic here. The guys are still learning to play together and many of the errors are a result of young players trying to do too much. The absence of Kamp and Jorge really made a difference here. Both of them are smart players that know where and how to move the ball.
The Good: Without Jorge and Kamp, Crabbe and Solomon have been forced to step up. You can see that both players are stronger and more confident. In particular, Solomon has added an array of post moves to his arsenal and is absolutely deadly on the break. As a bonus, Brandon Smith has built on a strong 2nd half of the 2010 season and is much more assertive taking it to the basket. He also shows an improved touch at the free throw line. Although everyone is talking about Cobbs as the difference at point, don't count out Brandon Smith. He's small, but tough. When the game was in doubt, he was the one who stepped up and took control of the struggling offense. If nothing else, it means that we have two guards who can run the point.
MadBum has his own thoughts on the game here.
Cobbs: 28 mins, 3/4 2PG, 0/2 3PG, 1/2 FT, 7 pts, 1 St, 3 TO, 3 As, 1 ORb, 4 DRb, 2 PF
Smith: 33 min, 3/7 2PG, 1/2 3PG, 8/10 FT, 17 pts, 2 St, 8 TO, 3 As, 0 ORb, 3 DRb, 4 PF
Behrens: 8 mins, 2/3 2 PG, 0/0 3PG, 0/0 FT, 4 pts, 0 St, 0 TO, As, 1 ORb, 0 DRb, 1 PF
Powers: 8 min, 0/0 2 PG, 0/0 3PG, 0/0 FT, 0 pts, 1 St, 1 TO, 0 As, 0 ORb, 1 DRb, 0 PF
Crabbe: 30 min, 4/8 2PG, 3/5 3PG, 0/0 FT, 17 pts, 3 St, 5 TO, 0 As, 1 ORb, 12 DRb, 3 PF
Solomon: 21 min, 8/11 2PG, 0/0 3 PG, 2/3 FT, 18 pts, 3 St, 2 TO, 0 As, 0 ORb, 2 DRb, 3 PF
Murray: 15 min, 0/0 2PG, 0/3 3 PG, 0/0 FT, 0 pts, 0 St, 1 TO, 0 As, 0 ORb, 0 DRb, 0 PF
Kravish: 17 min, 2/2 2PG, 0/0 3 PG, 0/0 FT, 4 pts, 0 ST, 3 TO, 0 As, 3 ORb, 1 DRb, 2 PF
Rossi: 9 min, 0/1 2PG, 1/1 3 PG, 0/0 FT, 3 pts, 0 ST, 0 TO, 0 As, 1 ORb, 1 DRb, 0 PF
Thurman: 27 min, 3/12 2PG, 0/0 3 PG, 0/0 FT, 6 pts, 0 St, 1 TO, 0 As, 5 ORb, 2 DRb, 2 PF
Player by player evals:
Cobbs: After a strong debut, took a step back. Struggled from the outside. Got abused defensively. Did have some nice passes. Needs to cut down on turnovers.
Smith: Steady. Will never wow you with his size or athleticism, but was really strong going to the basket. Showed an improved ability to finish and a better stroke at the line. Still needs to do a better job with running the team and cutting down on turnovers.
Crabbe: Great effort on both ends. Underrated as a defensive rebounder. Still has trouble staying with wings who know how to move without the ball and use screens. Starting to realize that he has the talent to carry this team when needed. Has to be more careful with forcing passes.
Solomon: Huge, huge improvement from last year. Learning how to use his length and speed to guard the perimeter and get out on the break. Gaining confidence in his back to the basket post game. Would like to see him be more dominant as a defender, shot-blocker, and rebounder. Especially rebounding.
Thurman: After a strong 14 and 8 game against the Vikings, this game was a regression to the mean. Struggled to catch the ball and finish over taller/stronger defenders. Got lost and abused defensively far too often. His free throws might very well kill someone. Will contribute as a reserve this year because of his size, but sparingly.
Murray: Handles the ball well, has speed, showing some vision. Didn't show off his improved outside shot in this game. Should be a better defender with his physical gifts.
Rossi: Made one and missed one from the outside. Good shot selection. Looks like a solid team player. Grabbed some tough boards. Struggled defensively.
Kravich: Typical game for a young player. Forced some shots. Forced some passes. Missed some defensive rotations. Got pushed around by bigger/stronger players. Good learning experience.
Behrens: Showed good strength and body control taking it to the basket. Showed questionable judgement in charging and traveling. Limited minutes. Still learning where to go on the court.
Powers: Got some run, but didn't do much. Had trouble on D and boxing out.
Final Thoughts: Winning a close game on the road without two of your best players can't be all bad. It's nice to see Crabbe, Solomon, and Smith flashing improvement and more confidence from last year. The young guys will get there. Monty is a proven coach and it's early in the season. Go Bears!
For you slackers who missed the game, it can be seen here: