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Without Richard Solomon, Cal fell to Syracuse Orange 92-81 in Maui Invitational semifinal

Ugh, the Bears came so close to finally beating Syracuse...if only Richard Solomon was available for this game. Alas, there shall be no revenge against Syracuse this time.

Freshman Kameron Rooks was called on for key minutes with senior Richard Solomon not available for the game.
Freshman Kameron Rooks was called on for key minutes with senior Richard Solomon not available for the game.
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The turning point for Monday's Arkansas game was when Richard Solomon picked up his 3rd foul early in the second half. For the second consecutive game, the game turned when a Cal big picked up a foul; unfortunately, the game turned south for the Bears when David Kravish picked up his 4th foul (a somewhat controversial/silly foul) with about 10 minutes left in the second half. An one point deficit quickly turned into double digit deficit, including a frustrating mental mistake by Tyrone Wallace to have the ball stolen from him right after it was inbounded.

In what is easily the best showing against the Syracuse's 2-3 zone by a Cal team, the Bears were able to compete against the 8th ranked team in the nation for the most part despite missing their senior forward/center Richard Solomon due to an eye injury suffered on Monday. Opting for a small lineup with Ricky Kreklow back in the starting lineup for Solomon, the Bears were even with Syracuse at the half, 41-41 in a game of small runs. The Bears got a big lift from their freshmen, with another solid outing offensively by Jabari Bird (17 points on 6 of 12 shooting, including 2 three pointers made, and a team high 7 rebounds) and also Jordan Mathews (12 points). The only other true big on the team behind Solomon and Kravish is Kameron Rooks. Rooks had a solid game with moments of brilliance and only two fouls.

Despite a poor first half scoring-wise, Justin Cobbs picked up his scoring in the second half and finished with a solid line of team high 18 points, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 5 rebounds. Playing out of position as a PF, Ricky Kreklow was in foul trouble for the most part of the game. Kreklow was only able to take 2 three point attempts (and making one). Overall, the Bears shot 6 of 21 from 3 point land. This percentage is somewhat skewed by the late 3's that the Bears shot in a desperate attempt to close the gap.

Like many Cal fans feared prior to the game, Syracuse's Trevor Cooney did eventually go off for the Orange. In the second, Cooney (7 for 11 from the field) scored 20 of his 23 points, including making 5 of 8 from 3's. Point guard Tyler Ennis (making 9 of 12 shots) had a game high 28 points, including the key steal and bucket referenced earlier to push the 'Cuse lead to 10 points at that point.

With the lack of Cal bigs to stop them inside, Syracuse big men C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant had 14 and 19 points and 7 and 8 rebounds each, respectively. Somewhat surprisingly, the Bears did win the cumulative battle of rebounds with 30 to 'Cuse's 26.

Both squads shot well in this game with the Bears hitting 51.9% of their shot to almost match the Orange's 53.4%.Until the late rally by Syracuse to pull the game away, the game had 10 ties and 12 lead changes.

With the loss, the Bears will now face the loser of the Baylor-Dayton game tomorrow at 4:30 PM PT on ESPN2. Given the lack of depth (again) for this Cal team, it would be interesting to see how much gas is in the tank for Cobbs, Kravish, and company. Going home 2-1 from Maui is a whole lot better than 1-2.