The turkey hangover effect was in full force as both teams came out sluggish. After nearly three minutes, it was still scoreless. Thankfully, a split pair of free throws from Brandon Smith broke the ice and the game proceeded apace. The Bears were able to play at their tempo. Instead of a methodical, half-court game, both teams looked to push the action when they had opportunity and took early shots as they presented themselves. The Bears missed a few opportunities from up close, but were patient running their offense and made a concerted effort to work it down low. Justin Cobbs provided a spark off the bench with 10 1st half points. And Allen Crabbe finally returned to form with 12 pts and 9 boards. Instead of letting himself get taken out of the offense, he showed off a pump fake and dribble step to free himself. This was some good coaching from Monty to help Crabbe put more pressure on the defense if they're going to play him tight. Both Kamp and Solomon were effective in the paint, and showed off some rapport with some nifty high-low passing. 52% shooting from the field, 3-6 from 3 was great. And as expected, the Bears exploited their size advantage en route to a 28-10 pounding on the glass. It was 38-22 and even notorious perfectionist Monty had to be satisfied with the effort.
In case anyone was worried about a letdown in focus or intensity, the Bears quickly put that to rest by coming out of the tunnel with controlled ferocity. They ruthlessly pressed their advantage inside working it inside to Solo early and often. Despite playing with an injured eye, he had 6 pts, 7 boards, 3 blocks, and was active on both ends in just 19 minutes. The Bears remained patient on offense, relentless on defense, and opportunistic in transition. This one was never in doubt. The better team grabbed this game by the throat and never let up. The Bears stuck with their man defense all game and weren't bothered by Denver's match-up zone in the slightest. Brandon Smith and Jeff Powers both ran the Denver offense at De La Salle and admitted that they gave tips while running the scout team in practice. It was a solid group effort as Crabbe, Jorge, Kamp, Smith, Cobbs, and Kravish all helped pour it on. When the dust settled, the Pioneers were the unlucky recipient of Cal's midwest angst, 80-56.
This is a game we should have won, and really needed to dominate to help our collective psyche. After a few minutes of gut-wrenching "whoa, they're cold" to start the game, the Bears laid all fears to rest with a team-wide onslaught that covered both ends. Great games from Crabbe and Cobbs overshadowed a solid effort by the Cal bigs who pressed their size advantage to dominate the glass. It's hard to say exactly what to take from this one. It was the perfect match-up - Denver thrives on halfcourt execution instead of raw athleticism and we had the edge across the board on all accounts. I'll take it. Bring on McNeese State. Go Bears!