It's my job in this space to relate to you what happened in the previous game, so let's get that part over with, because we have more interesting things to ponder than a very routine win.
Cal won by a lot! And it was very fun to watch. If you head to the play-by-play for last night's game and search for the word 'dunk' you will find six uses of the word on Cal's side of the ledger, and they were all very much fun. If you didn't watch, then you missed cool stuff like this:
Here's a little halftime snack for you, provided courtesy of Jabari Bird. https://t.co/eIriKEYD6q— Cal Men's Basketball (@CalMensBBall) November 24, 2015
As you can tell, the Bears got out in transition a little, and boy did they look good doing it. For the first 13 or 14 minutes, the Bearkats hung around and trailed by just 3 points. But the offense finally turned it on and the Bears never looked back. The score from that point forward? 59-28, at which point Cuonzo pulled his starters and the Bears closed it out the rest of the way.
There's not a ton to take away from this game, because the physical gap between these two teams was massive, maybe the biggest we will see all season long. At a certain point the Bears realized that they could get to the paint any time they wanted and pull down offensive boards when shots didn't fall, and the offense took off as a result.
Last year, Sam Houston State was the 2nd best team in the 29th best conference in the country, but they were down all five starters from last year's team, which is a short hand way of saying that this game was a walkover. And, minor struggles against East Carolina aside, that's four walkovers so far this year. Credit to the Bears for taking care of business against the weakest stretch of the schedule.
That all changes Thanksgiving Night in Las Vegas, when the Bears meet San Diego State and the schedule strength ramps up considerably.
- Jaylen Brown played his best game of the season, just by pulling back a little bit. The main criticism of his game so far is a tendency to hold onto the ball and try to make too much happen one on one. In Cal's first three games his usage percentage was sky-high, somewhere north of 40%. Against SHSU it was a more reasonable 27%, and he had four assists including a couple of great looks in transition. His only turnover was on the only play where he kept the ball too long; it was early in the game and never really happened again.
Oh yeah, and he still draws a crazy amount of fouls. That's how you score 18 points on 6 made shots without hitting a three pointer.
- Ivan Rabb had a quiet offensive game (and settled for a few too many mid-range turnarounds/jumpers for my tastes) but impressed again with his defense. Three more blocks, and most importantly just a single foul. His most impressive block was when his defender tried to get him in the air, but Rabb stayed rooted and vertical and simply made the play with his superior wing span. 1 or 2 games ago he would have fouled. Every game I've seen him do something better than the previous game.
- Ty Wallace did exactly what you would expect him to do against an inferior opponent, but I want to mention it anyway because it's bad to take what he does for granted.
- Offensively, I suspect that the difference between Cal having a good offense and a great offense is the night-in, night-out contributions from Jabari Bird, both as a slasher and a shooter. The former has been exactly what Cal needs, but the latter has been off to start the season, but that's not likely to continue.
- Brandon Chauca came in, which obviously means he's not redshirting.