Many things are true about Cal's performance against Dayon:
- The Flyers are clearly a talented, underrated team that will make noise in the A-10 after impressing in Maui.
- Cal is clearly a team ill-equipped to play three games in three days, particularly against an aggressive, deep team like Dayton.
- Richard Solomon is one of three players that are irreplaceable on Cal's roster.
Those are legitimate explanations for Cal's lackluster performance. But it's also true that Cal was out-of-sync on both offense and defense, and were it not for a shooting display of epic proportions from Justin Cobbs, this game could have been a truly shocking blowout loss.
When Cobbs fouled out with three minutes left in the game, he had scored 31 of Cal's 57 points. While I love that he has the ability to get red hot and carry Cal back into a game, it's not how the Monty offense is designed to work. Cobbs started the 2nd half with seven straight made baskets to bring Cal within two points after trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half. But as soon as the long jumpers dried up, Cal fell back behind by double digits and never again threatened to climb back into the game.
Dayton essentially controlled every facet of the game. They particularly controlled the paint, where Cal struggled to score and where the Flyers attacked with relative impunity. Cal struggled to keep Dayton off the offensive glass, and their ability to attack the paint and get misses clearly showed the value of Richard Solomon. I almost wonder if having Kravish and Solomon in the paint has acted as a security blanket to Cal perimeter defenders. If their man gets by them and into the paint, they still aren't typically scoring. But against Dayton, those same players scored early and often.
Offensively, there wasn't much in terms of teamwork and movement. Cobbs and Kravish has 17 of Cal's 23 field goals and were the only two players with double digit points. Dayton effectively extended their defense to prevent Cal's guards from getting any looks from deep, and the Bears never effectively punished them for that. Cal might have kept things close with better finishing when they did get the ball inside, but Dayton did a good job challenging everything, and Cal just seemed a bit off.
You know what this game reminds me of? Cal's blowout loss to Wisconsin last year. Or Cal's 39 point defeat to Missouri two years ago. Or a blowout loss to Syracuse in 2009-10, or another blowout loss to Missouri in 2008-09. Essentially every year under Mike Montgomery, Cal has played a tough out-of-conference team that has resulted in an ugly, disjointed, blowout loss in which both the offense and the defense looks bad.
I don't think it's a situation where Monty doesn't care about non-conference games. I think it takes time every year for his teams to learn how to play the way he wants them to, and we have seen over the years that Monty is perfectly willing to let his players learn lessons the hard way in an effort to get them ready for conference play.
I think this team was the team most ready to avoid needing those types of lessons, but then Richard Solomon got his eye poked by Arkansas, and here we are. But while this loss is frustrating and wasn't especially fun to watch, I have full trust that Monty will have this team playing great basketball once conference play rolls around. Hopefully sooner!
Now nobody get sick on the flight home, please.