This was a deceptively difficult game. UCSB's record is skewed because they were missing their star in two of their losses. Anybody who saw them race out to leads over Colorado and UCLA knew they're dangerous. Anybody who saw UCLA and Colorado blow past them in the 2nd half also knew that their defense is very very suspect.
Unfortunately, Cal played their single worst game offensively of the year, bar none. The Bears made a woeful 36% of their shots against a team that doesn't typically defend nearly that well. Cal got little to nothing from everybody not named Jordan Mathews. Cal's starters combined to shoot 14-45, and that's including David Kravish's 5-10 performance. Tyrone Wallace was invisible, Justin Cobbs couldn't hit shots from inside or outside, Jabari Bird never got into the game.
Cal actually held a lead entering halftime, mostly because UCSB star forward Alan Williams picked up two early fouls and played tentative basketball the rest of the way in an attempt to avoid getting a 3rd. As soon as the 2nd half started, Williams took over. David Kravish and particularly Richard Solomon were completely overmatched, and Williams finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, with 20 of those points coming after intermission.
The only bright side of the game was the play of Jordan Mathews, who scored 22 points on 14 shots. Mathews hit from outside, attacked the basket intelligently, made a few nice passes and generally had an excellent all-around game. If Cal had gotten anything else offensively from the rest of the team they probably escape Santa Barbara with a win.
Instead, Cal heads back to Berkeley with a loss that cannot be excused because of top 25 opposition or the absence of Richard Solomon. The Bears were playing fully healthy and plenty rested, but they never got into the game offensively and allowed UCSB far too many 2nd chances defensively.
Honestly, I'm not too upset about Cal's effort defensively, as I'd mostly credit a strong UCSB offense for what happened. but there's one stat that's pretty telling and completely unacceptable: Cal defensive rebounds: 15. UCSB offensive rebounds: 14. On UCSB misses, the Gauchos were about as likely as Cal was to pull down the rebound. It didn't seem to be a lack of effort - more a lack of concentration and hands. Solomon and Kravish just . . . dropped balls. It was weird. As the self-proclaimed president of the Richard Solomon fan club, tonight was a blow to the gut.
Needless to say, that can't happen. Monty's Bears are built on holding teams to one shot. When that doesn't happen, it all breaks down. If Cal holds things down on the glass, they still might escape Santa Barbara with the win, despite such an ugly offensive performance.
Where does this leave the Bears? Well, we just have to wait and hope that they put everything together in conference play. So far this year, pretty much every player on the roster has had a game that makes you go 'wow.' Wallace's opening weekend, Bird vs. Oakland, Cobbs vs. Dayton, Solo's back-to-back 15 rebound games, Mathews tonight, Kravish against Syracuse . . . we know what each player is capable of, and we know that this team is capable of more. You've got to like the flashes, knowing that Monty is there to put it all together.
But this loss hurts, particularly in combination with two losses in Maui. It's going to be a tough, uphill climb to reach a point where a high (say, 6 or better) tournament seed could be in play. And I think that's what we all want to see from this team.