Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
After squeaking by the feisty jump-shooters from Drake, and the tough bruisers from Georgia Tech, it's on to the title round against...the UOP Tigers? Despite starting the year 1-2 with losses to Fresno State and Oral Roberts, UOP shocked everyone except for themselves with back to back upsets of Xavier and pre-tourney favorite St. Mary's. These performances are no fluke; the final score may have only been 76-66, but make no mistake - UOP was blowing out the Gaels by as much as nineteen before garbage time. Although they don't have a player in their rotation taller than 6'8, the Tigers are out-rebounding teams through sheer hustle. They also use their depth and quickness to run a physical, swarming, trapping defense that disrupts offensive rhythm and forces turnovers. On offense, they have a balanced attack with several players all capable of putting up double figures. They go 9+ deep and bring plenty of scoring and rebounding off the bench. This is a team playing with confidence, a high level of intensity, and they absolutely will punch the Bears in the mouth if we don't take them seriously.
F Khalil Kelley(Jr), 6'8, 225 lbs, 6.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg
F Ross Rivera(Jr), 6'7, 225 lbs, 9.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Colin Beatty(6'4), 205 lbs, 3.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Lorenzo McCloud(Sr), 6'0, 170 lbs, 12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg
G Sama Taku(Jr) 6'1, 185 lbs, 8.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
In stark contrast to the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, the Tigers are smaller, but much more skilled. This is a very good shooting team.(50.4% FG) Lorenzo McCloud is their leading scorer and playmaker. Besides shooting 53% from the field, he's been hot from deep at a ridiculous 62.5% He's also quite good at getting himself to the line (28 FT attempts on the year) where he knocks them down at a 75% clip. Good thing we can shut him down with Jorge...yeah.
Sama Taku does most of his damage inside the arc as an opportunistic jump shooter. Although he stands just 6'4, Colin Beatty is a beast on the glass. Khalil Kelley is their lone inside threat, but is quite capable of tossing in a hook or dunking it on you if he gets position. Their other forward, Ross Rivera, is more of an outside-in jump-shooting threat who can stretch the defense with his range.
Off the bench, Travis Fulton is actually the teams leading rebounder. He's another one of those pesky high-motor guys who likes to mix it up inside and get himself to the line. Trevin Harris is a dangerous shooter who leads them in three point attempts and makes. (7/12)
Keys to the Game:
1) Be strong with the ball.
In almost every game this year, Cal has been prone to lapses in concentration where we get sloppy with the ball. UOP likes to use pressure and traps by their defense to generate easy offense. They frustrated St. Mary's star senior guard Dellavedova by bumping him all over the court. He didn't turn the ball over, but his teammates did once he was forced to give it up. Count on the Tigers trying to use the same strategy against Cobbs to see if they can get the ball out of his hands. You can also expect to see someone from UOP wearing Crabbe's jersey all night. Cobbs has been very, very good with the ball in his hands and might be too quick for them to trap easily. Where I'm concerned is when Smith has to bring it up and when our bigs have to make good decisions under pressure.
2) Stay on the floor.
I'm looking at you, bigs. In some ways, this is just as tough a match-up for the Cal big men as last game's brawl against a bigger team. Kravish, Thurman, and Solo need to be ready to guard the Tiger forwards all the way out to the perimeter. As tempting as it is to go for the highlight shot-block, we have to avoid that fool's gold and be disciplined with our close-outs. If we're going to get blocks, it has to come from backside help. Using our length effectively to force tough shots and not falling for pump-fakes has got to be one of our main focuses on defense.
Of equal importance, we have to use our size effectively to bully a smaller team on the glass. It was a step forward last game for our post players. They need to take another one and start dominating favorable match-ups. If our big guys can't get it done, expect to see a lot of 4-out, 1-in so that we can cover their shooters. Unfortunately, with Kreklow out, our guard rotation is very short while one of their strengths is firepower off the bench.
3) Play forty minutes.
At our worst, we miss box-outs, blow defensive assignments, and don't hustle back on defense. This type of lackadaisical approach is exactly what a scrappy team like UOP will feast upon. They know they're punching above their weight-class and just don't give a damn. We'll need to match their intensity, avoid getting frustrated, and play smart. It certainly wouldn't hurt for Allen Crabbe to bounce back with a big game. Let's do this.
Tip-off: 6pm PST