Honestly, I wasn't expecting a win over the Ducks. Considering that Oregon is a really good team this year, that the game was in Eugene, that Cal was still playing without two key rotation players, it seemed unlikely. More than that, I didn't think that the deep, up-tempo, foul-drawing Ducks were a very good match-up for a depleted Cal team.
It took a bit of time, like it usually does, but for the 5,826th year in a row Monty has his team ready for conference play. I expected that this team would turn it on eventually, but I didn't expect it to happen so quickly and so emphatically. Of course, while we Cal fans all knew that Monty would eventually get a team with this much talent playing great team basketball, it's nice to have a road win over a ranked opponent so that the rest of the country gets a reminder too.
Make no mistake, Cal controlled this game. This wasn't a fluke win. Oregon really only stayed in the game in the 2nd half via the free throw line, making only made 11 field goals after halftime. That's a minuscule total for a team that plays as fast and shoots as well as the Ducks, and it speaks to what the Bears are able to do defensively.
As much as I loved the defense, this one was all about how Cal torched a questionable Oregon defense. 1.19 points/possession over 81 possessions on the road is phenomenal, particularly when you consider that it was done basically just by the starting five. Cal's bench played just 21 minutes, recording two FG attempts and two points. Otherwise? An elite offensive and defensive performance just from Cobbs, Ty, Mathews, Solo and Kravish. So let's talk about what each of them did.
Tyrone Wallace: Played FORTY minutes of basketball. Spent some time guarding Joseph Young and managed not to foul out. Honestly, Ty's main contributions came on the defensive end where he really plays great positional defense and uses his length to either clog passing lanes or to knock away ill-advised passes. But Ty hit some big shots and had his share of nifty passes, and the result was a performance that stuffed the stat sheet across the board.
David Kravish and Richard Solomon: I want to talk about them together, because it bears repeating: Kravish and Solomon are the best defensive interior duo in the conference. They alter so many shots and they work together so well to secure defensive boards - the downgrade inside when either isn't on the court and Cal goes small is so obvious. Richard Solomon really impressed me with his positioning - he uses his body so well to screen players underneath the basket without fouling. Kravish is so deceptive as a shot blocker that opponents seem surprised, even after more than two years in the conference.
Oh yeah, and they combined for 28 points on just nine shots. It's somewhat surprising to me how terrified opponents have become of Solomon, who seems to be regularly drawing double teams, but it hasn't impacted his offensive game much. Mostly, it just means he's drawing more fouls, and thankfully he's been converting his free throws at a more than acceptable rate. Kravish, meanwhile, is completely content with his low usage role of nailing put backs and mid-range jumpers.
Jordan Mathews: Buckets! 10 to be precise, to go along with a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line. That was a Crabbe-esque performance and a complete 180 from the tough game he had in Maples, which shows a persistence and maturity that will serve him well. He hit probably the single biggest shot of the game, a three to stop an Oregon run and grow Cal's lead back to five. And in 38 minutes, he had exactly one turnover on what seemed like an unusually quick 5 second call.
Obviously, he won't be scoring 20+ every game, but this was a warning shot to the rest of the conference. You might want to focus on Justin Cobbs or double team Richard Solomon, but you can't leave Jordan Mathews open because he's too good of a shooter. It took Oregon 20 minutes to figure that out.
Justin Cobbs: For my money, his best performance of the year and one of his best in a Cal uniform. To borrow a soccer term, he bossed the game. With Cobbs, it's always a question of balancing facilitating and scoring. He made the right choice every single time, and that's reflected in the 20 point, 11 assist double double. At times he was toying with the Oregon defense, like when he passed to Richard Solomon when Solo somehow got matched up with Dominic Artis. Oregon quickly doubled to help Artis, so Solo passed it right back and Cobbs quickly dished to the man that was left open when Oregon doubled for an easy basket.
You're watching a very talented senior point guard who has a four year relationship with his head coach and his primary big man. And it's an absolute joy.
Man. Can you tell I'm jazzed about this one? This is where I should probably say something about how progress isn't linear and you shouldn't get too high after wins and blah blah blah. But that's no fun. This was a win that should be savored, even if it doesn't necessarily portend amazing things to come.
But it might.
GLORIOUS CHART OF VICTORY
Like it almost always is for a Monty win, it's about shooting and rebounds. The free throw rates are a little skewed thanks to some desperation fouls from Oregon late, but this game was won because Cal shot the lights out and Oregon didn't.
So, how will the Bears play as favorites? After winning two road games as significant underdogs, the Bears will now be the pick to win for four straight games. Of those four games, the toughest is probably Saturday's game against the Beavers, who got a decent win of their own against Stanford. The Beavers have some players that could pose match-up issues, so there can't be any let-up after such a brilliant performance in Eugene.