One on hand, Cal was lucky that such a lackluster performance came against Washington State. On the other hand, it was probably a lackluster performance because it was Washington State. College kids gonna college kid. Effort won't be 100% consistent.
But Cal turned it on with a 1st half run to get back in the game, then dominated the 2nd half to such a degree that the game was basically over with 10 minutes to go. As is frequently the case, Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon were the catalysts to both runs, with Cobbs making everything happen in the 1st half run and Solomon rebounding and dunking everything in the 2nd half.
I have a confession to make: This was the first men's game I have attended in person this year. I watched from behind the Straw Hat Band, and had a pretty iffy view of Cal's 1st half defense and 2nd half offense. I don't have a ton of insight to offer from this game. The dominant storyline comes via Monty:
We weren’t ready to play. You could tell. We were late going onto the floor to shoot. We were late into the locker room. There just wasn’t any kind of intensity in terms of the game.
We just guarded. We played hard. There were no adjustments that needed to be made. We were just standing there . . . There was nothing we needed to do differently other than just play hard and start defending people.
For what it's worth, I didn't think that Cal's first half offense was particularly objectionable as a whole - not amazing, not awful. It was the defense that was the problem. Washington State has one of the single worst offenses amongst major conference teams. They shouldn't be scoring 33 points at such a slow pace. Cal left shooters open all over the place and allowed seven offensive rebounds. A better shooting team would potentially have scored in the 40s.
Luckily, Cal shored things up defensively in the 2nd half. Washington State scored just four points in the first nine minutes of the 2nd half. There were very few open shooters, and there was only two offensive rebounds (one when Richard Solomon lost the ball out of bounds). It was how the game was supposed to go from the start, but no matter.
The 2nd half offensive barrage was plenty of fun. Cal scored points on nine of thirteen possessions. Three of the scores were Solomon dunks, two others were three pointers from Powers and Mathews. Any time you can go for an entire half with an eFG% of 74% you know you're getting good looks.
As of right now, Cal has the single best offense (in terms of points/possession) in the Pac-12 in conference games only. It's worth noting that Cal's schedule has included four of the worst five defensive squads in the conference. Only Stanford has an upper-half of the conference defense. On the other hand, Cal has completely dismantled those teams in exactly the manner you would hope for. The only other bad defense that Cal has yet to play? We'll see them next week in the Galen Center against USC.
Other random thoughts:
- I don't think it's much of a coincidence that Cal's offense (relatively speaking) struggled in the first half and Richard Solomon only had three FG attempts, and that Cal's offense excelled in the 2nd half when Solomon had six attempts.
- David Kravish's mostly invisible game I'll largely blame on constant foul trouble, and at least from my view, the 3rd foul called on him was completely mystifying.
- This might be the best passing team Monty has ever had at Cal. At the moment, 59% of Cal's field goals come via an assist, good for 29th in the country. I can't go through every box score at the moment, but the sense is certainly that the assist rate has gone up on this big winning streak. Cal assisted on 69% of their baskets against Wazzu, and those assists came from seven different players.
- Speaking of assists: Jabari Bird had three more, and I thought he had another positive showing as he works his was back into the rotation. He's not forcing anything, and although the scoring hasn't come, you get the sense that he knows the offense better than he did earlier in the year. In the post-game tweet up event, I asked him* about the assists and he said that it was a function of the college game slowing down for him.
- Another tweet up tidbit: Jordan Mathews talked about learning under Monty, and said that one of his basic lessons is that everything you do on the court should have some sort of purpose. Mathews definitely played with purpose in limited minutes - 3-5 from the floor, 3 assists, 0 turnovers, and a renewed focus on attacking the basket over taking jump shots.