Remember how good we all felt when Cal destroyed a Denver team that is almost certainly significantly better than Oakland? You know how bad you're feeling now because Cal struggled to beat a bad team with six active scholarship players?
Well, as is typically the case, the truth is somewhere in between. I believe that Cal will be a very good team by the time it really matters (conference play), but for now this is a team integrating enough new players into the system to still be vulnerable to an ugly performance.
And boy was today ugly. Turnovers. Bad shots. Dropped passes. Goaltends. Missed dunks. Struggling to score against a team that was literally worst in the nation in field goal percentage defense last year. You get the idea. Why did Cal play so far below their potential? Maybe they were overconfident after two easy wins. Maybe Justin Cobbs' injury isn't fully healed and it messed with our offensive flow. Maybe it was just a random bad game that most teams have.
Whatever the reason, Cal survived, overcoming a first half seven point deficit and a five point 2nd half deficit in the process. And most of the heavy lifting was done by freshman Jabari Bird. It's just one game, but his 6-8 blitz from three point range might help ease the concerns of those worried about Cal's ability to hit shots from deep.
Five of his six treys came in the 2nd half as Bird scored 19 of Cal's 40 2nd half points. His three with 1:25 left was the biggest basket of the game, and he hit two free throws a minute later that essentially sealed the game. For the first time all season, Cal faced a little adversity, and it was their freshman who stepped up the most. That's the obvious silver lining from a painful game.
Beyond Jabari, Richard Solomon had another 2013-14 Richard Solomon game, which apparently means about 10 points and about 15 rebounds. That presumably won't continue once Cal faces teams with bigger and deeper front lines, but if 10 and 15 turns into 8 and 10 that's still a crazy valuable player.
And although the offense was a mess, Cal was generally fine defensively. Oakland's own sharpshooter, Travis Bader, tried valiantly to match Jabari, but otherwise the Grizzlies didn't have much success offensively.
So a win is a win.
We'll update with charts and what should be a very entertaining Monty press conference once they pop up Stat Sheet's graphics are messed up for this game and Monty's presser isn't available on youtube! Alas!. On to Southern Utah!