Douglas C. Pizac-US PRESSWIRE
Better make sure those vaccinations and booster shots are up to date. It's time for another rivalry game down on the Farm. The Cardinal also split against the Washington schools. Like the Bears, they pulled out a close game in the 2nd half to edge Wazzu. But unlike us, they used tough defense to hang with UW until the very end. Whereas the USC Trojans have opted for Brute Squad ball with their trio of 7'ers, the Cardinal has taken "it's so easy, a cave man could do it" to a whole new level. They have four players 6'9 or taller with another two 6'7ers in their playing rotation.
This is a deep team built for crashing the boards...which is good because they don't shoot the ball very well. Their starting guards are only 25% and 26% from 3FG despite being third in the conference in attempts per game. Overall, they rank last in the conference in total field goal percentage. This may be clever strategery, however, as it means more loose balls to help pad their stats as the #1 offensive rebounding team in the league.
With our own struggles on offense and inconsistencies with taking care of the defensive glass, this one could be really ugly. And I'm not just talking about the Furd spirit squads and mascot.
I cannot confirm nor deny rumors that the rims and backboards at Maples are being reinforced to guard against the upcoming onslaught of bricks.
Unfortunately, in an ugly game, the deeper and more physical team usually prevails. That ain't us, for those paying attention at home.
Even so, this one is there for the taking. We have better shooters, it's just a question of whether we can put together a strong road effort defensively and on the glass.
F/C Jon Gage(Jr), 6'10, 235 lbs
C Stefan Nastic(So), 6'11, 245 lbs
F Rosco Allen(Fr), 6'9, 215 lbs
G Robbie Lemons(Jr), 6'3, 205 lbs
G Christian Sanders(Fr), 6'4, 185 lbs
G Gabriel Harris(Sr), 6'2, 190 lbs
Aaron Bright was named most outstanding player of the NIT last year. However, all that time spent trekking to Mordor has taken a toll on his outside shot this season. After seemingly breaking out his slump with a season-high 21 against WSU, he went 0-for the field against UW. He's more crafty than quick, but he can burn you if you jump out of position or leave him open. Chasson Randle is their 2nd-leading scorer despite shooting just 37% from the floor and 25% from deep. Rumor has it that he was awarded honorary NRA membership because there just isn't a shot that he won't take. Dwight Powell is their X-factor and best athlete. He's really picked up his game and can score in a variety of ways. Even defensive stalwart Harper Kamp had trouble containing him last year when he got on a roll. Josh Huestis is their leading rebounder and shot-blocker. He's not much of a shooter, but will scrap his way to get buckets. Wear a helmet when he shoots free throws because he's legitimately dangerous. (54.8%) Andy Brown and Justin Gage are prime examples of "modestly skilled" but will run around and crash into things. Johnny Dawkins will mix and match with the rest of his bench depending on match-ups, the phase of the moon, tea leaves, and whether an image of Whistler's mother formed in his morning coffee.
Keys to the Game:
1) Box out and rebound as a team.
The UW game was a pretty good demonstration of how not to take care of the defensive glass. The Furds are prone to long stretches of woeful shooting. If we don't give them easy put backs or extended possessions, we should win. Simple as that.
2) Protect the ball and get back in transition.
Don't give a bad offensive team easy buckets. Move the ball to the open man instead of dribbling into trouble. Sprint back on D. I feel mildly silly repeating this in a preview. But it doesn't make it any less true until our guys demonstrate that they can do this consistently.
3) Frustrate Dwight Powell.
The scrapping defense played on Motum is a good blueprint for how we can contain the ultra-athletic Powell. If we can stop him from going off, it'll go a long way towards knee-capping their already gimp-prone offense. Since the other Furd post players aren't nearly as adept at scoring, I'd expect to see us to throw some double teams at him with our other big. Previously, the best way to take Powell out of the game was to get him in foul trouble. He's gotten much better at staying on the floor, however, and we just might not have a potent enough low post offense to pull this off.
4) Don't be the springboard.
Both Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright shot the ball a lot better last year. In particular, Bright got annoyingly hot at the end of the year in the NIT. At some point this year, it's likely that they're going to re-discover their shooting touch. I know it's a proud Cal tradition to help other teams find their mojo. But just this once, let's be disciplined on D and keep them down.
5) Be focused and prepared on offense.
The Cardinal will guard you. Our guys will have to be mentally prepared that it may take some patience with our sets to find better shots. It would be really nice to see Cobbs bounce back and regain the confidence he showed earlier in the year. If we can start getting and converting better opportunities, I think Justin won't feel that he has to call his own number and try to carry the team on his own.
Game Time: Saturday, January 19th. 1:30 pm(PST)