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Cal 92, Nevada 84: Offense great, defense eh

Balanced scoring and great ball control allows Cal to skate past a surprisingly high scoring Nevada effort.

Even inanimate cardboard Monty wasn't super pleased about Cal's defense.
Even inanimate cardboard Monty wasn't super pleased about Cal's defense.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Let's start with the good news. Cal scored 92 points in (I think) 67 possessions. That's crazy efficient. Nearly 1.4 points/possession efficient. Nevada arguably has the worst defense of any team Cal will play this, year but that's still a strong performance. Cal did essentially everything right on offense. The Bears shot the ball well from everywhere on the floor, they drew fouls, they hit free throws, and they didn't turn the ball over. I guess Cal could have grabbed a few more offensive rebounds, but it's not like there were many opportunities to board missed shots.

Justin Cobbs had a sterling 8/0 assist/turnover ratio and scored when he needed to. David Kravish continues to only take great shots and hit most of them. Richard Solomon schooled some Nevada post players who were totally unprepared for his quickness in the paint. Tyrone Wallace was very composed on the ball and had a good looking three point shot. Jordan Mathews followed up his break out performance against UCSB with a solid showing. And Jabari Bird showed why he's such a special talent with a 12 point spurt that kept Nevada at bay in the second half.

Essentially, every single player that one might reasonably expect to have a large offensive contribution was on his game. It was a clinic. Honestly, Cal missed a few shots you would typically expect them to make, and turned the ball over unnecessarily a couple times to end the game. They could've gone for 100.

OK. So. Great offense. Now, about the defense.

Nevada, conversely, scored 84 points in 67 possessions, which is 1.25 points/possession, making this the fourth time in five games in which Cal's defense just wasn't very good. And like the UCSB game, this time Cal had Richard Solomon anchoring the paint, so that isn't an excuse. And I'm starting to worry.

How far this team can go depends on their defense. It was defense that got them into the NCAA tournament last year, and it's defense that made me think they should be talked up as a dark horse Pac-12 title contender. I love Allen Crabbe and Robert Thurman, but the issue was supposed to be replacing their offensive contributions, not their defensive contributions.

For the 2nd straight game, Cal's opponent rebounded roughly half of their own misses. For the 2nd straight game, Cal was unable to stop simple dribble penetration off of high ball screens. For the 2nd straight game, Cal's opponent was able to finish too often over bigs who hesitated to decide when to leave their man to contest a shot.

Nevada has a good offense . . . for a Mountain West school. They do not have a good offense by the standards of the Pac-12 this year. If I'm Jahii Carson and I see tape of what Deonte Burton did tonight, I'm excited. If I'm Dwight Powell and I see what Alan Williams did last week, I'm excited.

The good news is that Mike Montgomery is very aware of this problem. One suspects that he replaced Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace in the starting lineup in an effort to improve Cal's defense, or at least to send a message about the importance of defense. The better news is that Mike Montgomery knows how to build a great defense. At some point this year, I expect everything to start clicking, much like it did last year. I just hope that it starts clicking soon. Like, in a week and a half when Cal visits Creighton, or at least by the new year when Cal starts conference play with a very tough three game road trip through Palo Alto and Oregon.

Everybody knows what needs to happen. I'm pretty confident in this team to put in the work, and for this coaching staff to teach. All part of the process, right?