We examine the positives and negatives of the Cal vs. Creighton contest as they get ready to face off with UC Santa Barbara.
Kodiak: Tyrone Wallace really elevated his game. He's playing beyond his years. Ricky Kreklow, although still impaired, was cleared to play and changes the whole dynamic of our defense. Cobbs bounced back from a couple of tough games to play more like himself. The team as a whole stepped up when our best player was having an off night. And the effort on the glass was impressive. The only other team which has out rebounded Creighton was Boise, and that lead to an upset.
Avinash: The positive is that we're competing. We're hanging tough against teams that are quite good, and Kreklow's return made a huge difference. Wallace played well, Cobbs made some big jumpers, and Kravish did a good job of shouldering the rebounding load. Creighton was probably one of our best performances considering how poorly Crabbe was shooting the ball. I was amazed we had a chance to come back and win the game near the end.
TwistNHook: Let's look at some numbers here. Kravish had 13 rebounds, which is great. Wallace had 10. I really like Wallace. I think he needs to put on a bit of bulk, but I really think that he has a lot of potential. He can shoot (although in fairness, he was 3-10 against Creighton, but that was a bad night for everybody). He seems very explosive out on the court. I think he will definitely develop.
It was good to see Kreklow out there. Even though his numbers don't stand out, just getting healthy, getting time will help pay dividends down the stretch.
Norcalnick: My biggest positive was that nobody besides McDermott hurt Cal on defense. McDermott rightfully gets a ton of press, but Creighton's offense isn't elite (5th most efficient in the nation last year, 7th this year) just because of one dude, no matter how good he is. Players like Gregory Echenique and Grant Gibbs are talented offensive players, and Cal held them down. As a result, the Blue Jays had their worst offensive performance of the season despite getting an absurd day from their star.
Unless Shabazz finally starts playing up to his hype, McDermott is almost certainly the best player Cal will face in the regular season, so I'm not going to freak out that nobody could stop him. The Bears stopped everybody else, and hopefully that's a good sign for conference play.
Vincent S: All of the main players back in form (well, except for Allen, whose shot simply wasn't falling). Until the very end, and I don't blame Richard Solomon at all for this given just how bad it got, the players managed their emotions even when it felt like it was 8 on 5. I saw Justin Cobbs recognize that he needed to take control, and do that, without being out of control like he appeared in the Wisconsin game.
LeastCoastBears: Kreklow was healthy enough to suit up, which bring us that much closer to being at full strength.
Offensive rebounding - this one was a mixed bag as we got a ton more chances for offensive rebounds since we also had more opportunities (missed shots). Nevertheless, the Bears out offensive rebounded the Blue Jays 19 to 6 with many of these boards coming on the heel of possibly ill advised quick jumpers.
Tyrone Wallace was 4th on the team in minutes at 27, behind Cobbs (38), Crabbe (37), and Kravish (28). Good to see his role grow as the season goes on.
Kodiak: Missed opportunities. We're still inconsistent on D. And we don't have a reliable low post game to go to. If Crabbe or Cobbs is off, we don't seem to know where else to go.
Avinash: Being outworked and out-physicaled. I knew we'd miss Jorge and Harper, but I didn't realize how much until tonight. Creighton really muscled Crabbe around, and the lack of calls didn't seem to help matters. The Blue Jay big bodies really forced him out of his comfort zone, and it felt like he was pressing or not playing his game most of the night.
After that, the interior strength continues to exasperate. We missed at least a dozen shots at the rim. Our post defense was pretty embarrassing (don't know who Creighton's center was but he beat Thurman like a drum). Our switching defense was a bad idea: Thurman got switched on the perimeter several times and got barbequed. Kravish was generally good but he can't post up anyone. The highlight for the bigs was Solomon hitting a three, which tells you all you need to know about how far these guys have to go. No post strength puts so much pressure on Cobbs and Crabbe to produce night in, night out.
TwistNHook: This is easy to see. Look at the shooting numbers down the line. Cal was missing from zero feet range. Even a thrilling Crabbe dunk went awry.
On the season, Cobbs is shooting 54% while Crabbe is shooting 47%. On Saturday, Crabbe shot 23% and Cobbs shot 47%. Cobbs number isn't THAT far down, but Crabbe certainly had a rough day. Cal shot 34% on field goals and 17% on 3s. Ouch. Just ouch.
Plus, we had some defensive breakdowns in the 2nd half there. It looked like Creighton was able to score at will, either by sharpshooting 3s or, in the alternative, easily penetrating the Cal D. I don't know why the D broke down there, but I'm hopeful Monty can figure it out.
Norcalnick: I was disappointed that Cal's offense was so impotent without Allen Crabbe. It's not fair to expect somebody to be on all the time, but the simple fact is that unless Justin Cobbs has a huge game (or, potentially, if Ricky Kreklow can finally get integrated into the rotation) Cal can't survive a Crabbe off-night. That's not really fair to Allen, but it is what it is. And everybody knows that this is Crabbe's team now, and the defensive pressure he will face will be commensurate to that knowledge.
To be fair, Crabbe has only been the no-doubt go-to-guy for 9 games, and only for a few games against elite competition. It's a learning process, and it will take time for him to find the perfect balance between taking over and pulling back when the defense is all over him. Hopefully he and Monty find that balance and the offense starts cooking like we all think it can.
Vincent S: For long stretches at a time, it seemed we could not generate offense. Much of this was because shots simply weren't falling. This isn't the first time this has happened this season, and I worry that our team simply does not have enough firepower to dig itself out of a hole if this happens against a quality Pac-12 opponent. Hopefully Coach Montgomery will make the necessary adjustments - I trust that he will.
LECoastBears: Inability to finish. In the current losing streak, I can distinctively remember several opportunities per game when an easy basket is missed. We're not good enough to blow those kind of opportunities against good teams.