Cal Men's Basketball: UC Santa Barbara Preview

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Bears snap their 3-game skid against the visiting Gauchos?

Missed opportunities and heartbreak all add up to a three-game losing streak. Suffice to say, a victory over the visiting UC Santa Barbara Gauchos won't win any points with the selection committee. But at this point, we need to wipe up the spilt milk and get back into the win column.

The Gauchos(4-5) are well-coached and are used to being the class of their conference. However, they just graduated their veteran core of seniors that had played together for years. This year's team is very young with only two upper classmen in the playing rotation.

They still managed to steal a win at Santa Clara during their last trip to the Bay Area, however. They're not strong in any particular phase of the game. But, they do have a formidable front court duo featuring an MSF-like bruiser of a center.

Normally, this would be a classic trap game where Old Blues should be worried that we'd let a scrappy underdog hang around too long.

But I think this is one where the Bears have several games worth of angst to unload. In particular, I'd expect Allen Crabbe to bounce back with a vengeance.

Starters:

F Alan Williams(So), 6'7, 240-275 lbs, 17 ppg, 9.4 rpg
F Taran Brown(Fr), 6'8, 190 lbs, 13.9 ppg, 6 rpg,
G Nate Garth(Sr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 5.2 ppg, 4.0 apg
G Michael Bryson(Fr), 6'4, 201 lbs, 5.75 ppg, 2.6 rpg
G/F Lewis Thomas(So), 6'7, 210 lbs, 3.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Bench:

G Kyle Boswell(Jr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 11.6 ppg, 2.2 apg
G Duke DaRe(Fr), 6'1, 185 lbs, 1.4 ppg
G TJ Taylor(So), 5'9, 160 lbs, 3.0 ppg, 2.3 apg

Alan Williams is listed at 240lbs. But, his coach jokingly admits that the number is closer to 275...ish. He's their leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. In some ways, he's like a mini Josh Smith but a hundred or so pounds lighter and an infinitely higher motor on the court. Taran Brown is the lightning to complement Williams' thunder. His coach feels that Brown is the best athlete that he's ever had, including former NBAer Doug Christie. Besides being able to jump out of the gym, he's a threat out to the three point line.(38% 3FG)
Lewis Thomas and Michael Bryson are their wings, but they're more jump shooters than slashers. Nate Garth sets the table as their best penetrator and assist man.

Off the bench, Kyle Boswell is their 6th man, occasional starter, and one of the best returning three-point shooters in the conference.


Keys to the Game:

1) Win the low post.

The Gauchos' strength is with their front court. Solomon, Thurman, and Kravish might not be as strong as Williams or as explosive as Brown. But, this is a match-up which we need to win if this team is going to have any chance at being a conference contender. I'd expect that Monty will want our bigs to use their length to deny easy entry passes. This requires effort, focus, and intensity. We'll also need to continue to rebound as a team. If our bigs are fronting, someone on the backside needs to help keep Williams off the offensive glass. (3.9 offensive rebounds/game) Judging from Monty's recent post-game comments, I'd expect a concerted effort to see us work the ball inside to find some way to manufacture points in the paint. Our bigs need to show that they can finish when given the opportunity.

2) Be balanced on offense.

We need to be more than just Cobbs and Crabbe. Sure, our best players need to look for their shots, but these should be good shots within the flow of the offense, not forces. If we can find that elusive third scorer, it would really help open things up for the whole team.

3) Show a killer instinct.

We're a better team in every category that matters. This is a game we should dominate from start to finish. No lapses in concentration on defense. No sloppiness on offense. This is a game to help our bigs and young players build confidence. Monty was blunt and accurate as always when he said that we need to get better. So, let's do it at the Gauchos' expense.

Go Bears!

Game Time: Tuesday, 12/18. 8pm(PST)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: 910AM

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