First things first: DaVonte Lacy is a really excellent player, and he played the best game of his career. 39 points on 20 shots. Best shooter in the conference? Probably only C.J. Wilcox can give him a run for his money.
But it takes two to tango. When one player has the best game of his career, it's a fair bet that there is something systematically wrong with the defense that allowed him to do so. Unfortunately, that team last night was Cal.
I don't know if there was any one thing wrong with what Cal tried to do to combat Lacy. There were lazy switches. There were indifferent close outs. There were failures to switch back. For whatever reason, poor 7'0'' Kameron Rooks had to guard 6'4'' Lacy at least three different times. At various points, just about every player on the roster made some kind of mental error on defense, and Lacy was good enough to punish Cal for every single mistake.
In the game preview, I nearly called for Cal to double team Lacy. That's how big the gap is between what Lacy can do, and what his teammates can do. And that's how Cal held on. Late in the game, they double teamed him. Instead of switching on the screen, they just had both player follow Lacy after a pick. It worked, if barely.
On another night, Lacy misses a couple of early threes, never gets going in the same way, and Cal probably cruises to a relatively routine win. Instead, it took an excellent three point night from the Bears just to barely hang on in overtime.
Hang on they did, and despite four recent losses, despite consistent issues with slow starts, despite iffy defense, the Bears are still virtually tied for 2nd place in the Pac-12 and in a good position for a spot in the tournament. This is our reality, and both sets of facts are true, even if it does not make a ton of sense.
- Shooting well solves so, so many problems. Cal needed every single one of their eight 3 pointers to hold off Lacy, and that three point shooting masked some difficulty working the ball inside for good looks inside. Would you believe that Cal shot better from 3 (57%) than 2 (44%)?
- Ricky Kreklow didn't have a great game offensively, failing to convert on a number of decent looks inside. But he hit a couple 3s and he made a few plays defensively, particularly late in the game, when nobody else was. It was a pretty solid performance from a guy shaking off two months of rust.
- I really wish Ricky didn't have to shake off two months of rust.
- Jordan Mathews looked much, much better coming off the bench. Correlation doesn't mean causation, but I like his game when he's taking seven well selected shots rather than 10-15 shots with a bunch of them forced.
- Richard Solomon didn't have an awful game, but he was outplayed by D.J. Shelton and fouled out in a very unnecessary way. Cal needs more from him.
- Washington State got five offensive rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game. It was really, really annoying. They got one more in the first half, and then they didn't get any more for the rest of the game. Thank you, Bears, for shutting that down so completely.
- It's pretty scary that we only had 10 assists on 28 made field goals against Washington State.
GLORIOUS CHART OF VICTORY
Glorious being a relative term. Winning is still better than losing.
It would be misleading to say that offensive rebounding won Cal the game, but by my calculations Cal had 10 2nd chance points to Wazzu's 4, so that's certainly good.
A win is a win is a win is a win. Cal can still earn a road sweep, which is one of those things you're not allowed to complain about, no matter how not great your team looks in the process. Washington is most certainly a better team than Washington State, but with Lacy in the fold the difference isn't nearly as pronounced as their records and efficiency profiles would indicate.
There's still plenty of opportunity for this team, but it's the same refrain we've had for the last few weeks: something is going to have to change in terms of focus, effort and execution to take advantage of that opportunity.