Blueandgold15: Disappointing, but not altogether unexpected. I figured heading into this thing that we'd win one game in the tournament tops, and we met that expectation by hanging on over UNLV - my bigger issue is that the game was really for the taking. It is not hard to imagine that Cal could've taken this one, were it not for the turnovers, mental mistakes, and a disappearing act from Crabbe/Cobbs at the worst possible time...and we only lost by six points. The story could've been about Cal losing to a team they were supposed to lose to. Instead, it becomes us coming tantalizingly close to knocking them off. Us shooting 4 of 21 from 3 point range? A 41-19 free throw disparity that Syracuse couldn't take advantage of? Yeah. This game could've ended very, very differently...with us on top instead.
LEastCoastBears: This was a frustrating game. The Syracuse zone suffocated Crabbe and the Bears had way too many turnovers trying to pass the ball inside against the athletic Orange players. I think the Bears probably could have changed the offensive strategy a bit to try to get Crabbe good looks from the outside, but Cal sticked to the usual offensive strategy of trying to get the best shot inside as opposed to settle for 3 point shot. Given how the Cal defense also limited Syracuse to basically no basket for most of the second half (though they did get to the line plenty but miss quite a few), the inability to close that 8-10 point deficit just added to the frustration. Had the Bears had more time to prep for the Syracuse zone, I think the result would have been different. Rightfully so, the bulk of the Bears' preparation for this weekend was for the UNLV game.
Berkelium97: Frustration. During the first half the team seemed like it had no idea how to attack the Syracuse D. They were tentative and mostly settled tough or contested shots.
For the first thirty minutes I kept hoping they would really push the tempo to prevent the Syracuse zone from setting up. When they did push the ball down the court, however, the offense usually slowed down which allowed 'Cuse to get set. I liked the pace over the final 10 or so minutes of the game. Although Syracuse's cold shooting opened up many more transition opportunities, the Bears tried to move the ball quickly even when taking the ball out after a Syracuse basket.
I was impressed that we made a game of it late. Unfortunately we were victim of several unforced errors: bad passes, feet out of bounds, and so on. While I expected the Bears' season to come to an end tonight, it's hard not to imagine what could have been if Cal hadn't been so sloppy.
Ohio Bear: I expected Syracuse to blow out Cal. I thought going into the game that the Syracuse 2-3 zone was going to be a tough nut for Cal to crack. And, sure enough, our two scorers (Crabbe and Cobbs) by and large did not get good looks at the basket. I was intrigued by some of the high-low sets we ran to try and get Solo or Thurman some chances near the basket. Some opportunities were there but we didn't capitalize on them often enough. We turned the ball over way too much, but we have to give Syracuse some credit for that, too. It also seemed that when we had opportunities to take a shot, we made the "one pass too many." Time and again, the one pass too many led to a turnover or a shot that was not as good as the one we passed up.
We didn't get blown out, though, and for that I have to tip my hat to our team. Sure, Syracuse helped us out with missed FTs. LOTS of missed FTs. (I think they just missed another one...) But credit the Bears for hanging in there and for playing as good a defense as we could play against a tough matchup for us defensively. Cal forced 15 TOs, which helped keep us in the game as much as the Syracuse FT ineptitude did.
Kodiak: OhioBear is an awful human being. Not too surprising. On a short turnaround, I was worried about adapting our offense to solve their zone. It's not a run of the mill zone. The way they play it, it's almost an extension of their offense. With Kreklow hobbled and Wallace a year or so away, it's a bad match-up for a team that really only has Crabbe/Cobbs as legitimate outside threats.
TheScientist019: I can't believe we managed to hang so close given how ugly that game was, but I guess we have a great game from Solomon to thank for that. Given how much of our offensive production is reliant on Cobbs and Crabbe, I'm not shocked to see us struggle when facing a defense that could shut those two down. I think the pair combined for a whopping three points in the first half. Yikes...
Other possible schemes included what Georgetown ran - Otto Porter driving, stressing the zone, and making the correct read for an easy basket, or a variation of what we ran in 2009, with multiple long-range threats sharing the ball. Similar to what happened on Saturday, in 2009, the lack of a consistent third perimeter threat (Theo Robertson was injured) killed our chances.
On our end, I don't blame Allen at all. He was getting double-teamed five feet beyond the arc by long, active, athletic defenders, and simply didn't get any room to operate - tough to get a shot off when you're being hounded like that. Solomon had a ridiculous performance, a good sign going into his senior season.
Credit Syracuse for having executed their trademark defense effectively.
The main story of the game was the zone. Cal showed no ability to attack the zone. I outlined a number of ways they could have attacked better here, but in general Cal was content to pass around the perimeter without getting into the middle of the defense. We showed a few nice high-low combinations that resulted in layups or fouls, but for the most part we burned clock without getting penetration.
There were some major disappointments for Cal. I think the list has to start with Allen Crabbe. After a season of proving he could be "the guy", Crabbe showed none of that proactivity or aggressiveness. The zone completely took him out of his game and relegated him to 25-foot shooter and ball mover. Would have loved to see him attack more, either off the dribble to the FT line. Monty could also have used him as the high post as a way to initiate the offense. Second disappointment for me was the offensive gameplan. Again, see my comment for ways I think we could have attacked better. The third disappointment was Kreklow. Dude looked completely lost out there. Didn't show the shooting stroke I thought (mistakenly?) he had. In addition, he was super tentative and showed no ability to get into the heart of the zone. Last disappointment was the transition D to start the second half. We let them get out and attack a few times, which helped get us into the penalty early. I didn't have a problem with most of the foul calls - Cuse earned them by getting into the paint and drawing fouls.
However, there were some positives - we as Cal fans are trained to look for those! This list has to start with the bigs, specifically Solomon. Richard showed great aggressiveness and a good understanding about the holes in the zone. A few of his finishes showcased his great finishing potential (athleticism, strength, and nice touch around the rim). Also hit a nice baseline jumper early in the game which portends well for the future. Thurman and Kravish to a lesser degree also had good games. Thurman's not the most explosive player, but he was often in the right position, and showed great patience around the rim. Kravish looked frustrated by some of the foul calls against him, but still used his length effectively on the glass. Losing the rebounding battle by only a few boards is a great testament to how our bigs played! Second positive for me was the fight the whole team (minus Allen Crabbe) showed. Continually threatening in the second half is a true sign of how tough this team was. In particular, I loved Solomon "taking control" of the huddle and firing up the team. The difference between his and Crabbe's body language was very noticeable.
I should give 'Cuse a lot of credit. They execute their defense beautifully, using their length and positioning to create a difficult zone to attack. They do a good job taking away / contesting interior passing, which takes away perhaps the easiest way to beat the zone. They also did a good job identifying Crabbe as he moved through the zone. Their offense is pretty ugly... but they do a good job playing around the rim, and limiting their outside shots (except for Southland).
Last comment is on the crowd - was truly awesome to be in such a pro-Cal atmosphere. I knew I had to make it down, because when else would I ever be so close to a Cal NCAA game? Super glad I did! You had the feeling the crowd was aching for a reason to explode... the end of the game provided that, which was nice at least.
It was an ultimately frustrating game to watch because of how poorly we played - or at least the perception of it. Obviously Syracuse's length, athleticism and scheme were disrupting us quite a bit, but it was disconcerting to see us make really simple mistakes - unforced errors and not hitting shots we can normally hit. You have to think that if Crabbe or Cobbs has even an average game for them - we're really in contention to win, but that's what Syracuse game planned for. It was scarily similar to how we lost to Iowa State with Shareef and Ed Gray in 1996 - our two best players having two of their worst games of the season at the same time.
However, it was encouraging to see us within 6 points of pretty damn good team with Crabbe and Cobbs so off - Richard Solomon came up big and our guys fought hard.
Also since our sports bar only had one espn feed, we didn't get uninterrupted views of the Cal game until there were 12 minutes left in the game as we watched the Butler game and the Gonzaga game - but ultimately this is only my viewing experience. We did have five Cal alums though!
atomsareenough: Well, that was disappointing, but not unexpected. In fact, I'd say the overall feel of the game went pretty much exactly how I thought it would. We scrapped and hung tough with them, but the superior athletes of the Orange were ultimately too much for us. Their height and quickness made their zone incredibly tough for us to break down, and they shot just well enough for them to win. The one thing that was really annoying was that it felt like they had the refs on their side as well. There weren't really that many blatant calls (except the Cobbs block on Keita was TOTALLY clean); most of them were borderline calls that could go either way, and well, they just all consistently went Syracuse's way. There was a sequence where they had 4-5 straight possessions in a row where we got whistled for a foul. I think they were already in the bonus with 15:32 left in the second half.