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California 57, Temple 50: Defense, Bears, Defense!

Utilizing strong position defense to keep Temple's offense off-balance and keeping the game at a manageable length for the first thirty minutes, Mike Montgomery's California Golden Bears took the lead late in the second half for good and landed their most impressive win of the young season, upsetting the 20th-ranked Temple Owls.

It looked like Temple was finally pulling away when they finally put themselves up by seven somewhere after the midway point of the second half. But Cal responded with a 16-1 run, capped off by a Jorge Gutierrez three to put them ahead. It sets up a second-round matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 2 PM PT/5 PM ET on ESPN2.

Cal was hardly impressive offensively (41% from the field, 18 turnovers and 57 points on 68-69 possessions will get you killed on many nights), but they more than atoned for it by racking up the defensive pressure, rotating well and keeping Temple on the perimeter. The Owls couldn't get it going from anywhere, going 20-60 from the field and an awful 2-19 from beyond the arc. They didn't score for six minutes in the second half, as Cal's defense and their inconsistent offense locked them down.

Credit goes to Cal's defense, although Temple had plenty of open looks that fell flat as well. Harper Kamp (13 points, 7 rebounds) and Markhuri Sanders-Frison (8 points, 9 rebounds) will never wow you with their stat lines, but they really made Lavoy Allen (13 points on 12 shots) work for his numbers. Gutierrez wasn't great ball-handling (10 points, 3 assists), but he owned Juan Fernandez in the battle of guards, as the Argentine point man shot 2-14 from the field, 0-7 from downtown. And we can't leave out Allen Crabbe (12 points, 8 rebounds) and Gary Franklin (10 points and two triples) doing their job offensively and defensively, shutting down Ramone Moore and Scootie Randall (a combined 5 points on 2 of 15 shooting). 

All in all, it was a surprising and pleasing win in Walt Disney World by our sturdy Golden Bears, and a fitting way to start off the Thanksgiving weekend.

After the jump, more extended postgame thoughts from Kodiak and me.

Temple's size gave us a lot of trouble early on, as they were clearly bigger than any of our previous opponents. Our big men got outrebounded a few times (the Owls had an 8-6 advantage on offensive boards but lost overall to the Golden Bears 36-32). However Kamp and MSF got a huge push from Crabbe, who collected a bunch of boards and provided much needed box outs. The glasswork was generally very good, as Temple went one-and-done after a lot of their crappy shot selection. We didn't see a lot of that last year, but I'm seeing more and more solid fundamentals when it comes to rebounding.

Additionally, Cal committed a lot of unforced errors, turning over the ball a total of 18 times. Gutierrez turned a fastbreak into a turnover when he went into transition and carried the ball on at least one occasion. Kamp travelled and lost the ball on another occasion, as did Temple got their easiest buckets off of many of those slip-ups, although they all but gave back this advantage with 16 mishaps of their own.

The offense was also out-of-sync, some of that due to the trouble our point guards had against Temple's size. Gutierrez tried to force the ball into areas where there was nothing but Owls jerseys, and backup guard Brandon Smith did very little with his opportunities. Ball-handling continues to remain a concern, as Cal is eventually going to run into a team that can execute well, play great on-the-ball defense, and make it tough for the Bears to do anything defensively. They haven't faced that team yet, but you figure it's coming on the way.

Franklin is fearless and the only guy on the team who is pretty consistent at trying to create points off his own shot. His shooting percentage will never light up an arena, but he nailed two big triples to keep Cal in striking range when Temple was trying to pull away. His aggressiveness can be just as much of a virture as Crabbe's patience. The small forward seemed to make plenty of good decisions and played pretty good defense. Solomon's yin to Crabbe's yang should be fascinating to monitor over the next few years.

Sanders-Frison and Kamp did a lot of cleaning up underneath and again struggled to get the ball in good post position, but they did a good jump. It'd be nice if MSF didn't rely on that jumper too much; however, he still doesn't have strong low post moves, so it makes sense that he tries to stretch the floor for defenders to try and open up slashing lanes for his teammates when big men respect his jump shot.

Also, I think all of us didn't think Richard Solomon would be this along this early, but he seems to be the clearcut first big men off the bench, jumping the still-developing Bak Bak. Solomon needs development too, but he makes up for it with his raw physicality and incredible length, and all-out energy. Solomon broke on a pass and got a breakaway dunk to cut the Cal deficit to two, and Montgomery seemed to favor him as the primary bench big man rotating with Sanders-Frison and Kamp. It seems our rotation looks a lot like

Starters, with Smith as the backup point, Murry as the backup wing (when he starts to get up to speed), Solomon as the backup big, and Bak and Carter to see spot time.

Nevertheless, it was a strong showing from the Bears. Let's hope they didn't leave everything on the floor tonight and find ways to grind against what should be an offensively efficient Notre Dame squad. Go Bears!