And so we begin. After an off-season of waiting on NBA Declarations, contract signings and transfer news the Bears began their march to the madness.
The Bears were good. The Bears were better. The Bears had improved.
Defensively, they made the right switches, they helped from the weakside, they cleaned up the defensive glass, they closed out on shooters, but did we expect any less from one of the top defensive teams in the country last season? (Okay MAYBE we expected a little drop)
What about the offense?
They moved without the ball, they set on-ball and off-ball screens, the forwards made quick decisions with the ball, the guards directed spacing. This was unexpected. The offense was supposed to make strides, but this? This was different. This was without Preseason All-American Ivan Rabb. This was without the key perimeter players from last season in Mathews, Brown and Wallace.
I daresay, the Bears look like an elite team based around their defense.
So before I turn this into a HYPE post in Reef’s stead, let’s delve into the game and how the Bears started their season.
The big storyline was whether or not Ivan Rabb would play, and just as the warm-ups began, official news on Rabb was released:
“California men’s basketball’s sophomore Ivan Rabb will not suit up for Friday’s season opener against South Dakota State, head coach Cuozo Martin announced today. Rabb remains day-to-day after suffering a toe sprain in Cal’s secret scrimmage against Saint Mary’s in October. He has attended team practices with limited participation in full-contact drills.”
The First Half.
The Bears did not allow the Jack Rabbits to make any of their first 9 shots. So, Cal jumped out to a 7-0 lead by the first media time out. The most surprising player in the first 10 minutes was Stephen Domingo. The rumors of Stephen being a rejuvenated man was not understated. All of last year, he did not look confident and passed up open looks more often than not as the season progressed. This season, he looks to attack, rises up for jumpers without hesitation and has a confidence that seems to be sky high. The catalyst seemed to be his trip with the Pac-12 all-stars this past summer. He ended the half with 5 point on 2⁄3 shooting and 1⁄2 from 3. Domingo also added 3 rebounds.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kingsley Okoroh was a force in protecting the rim. He had 4 blocks and only 2 fouls in 11 minutes of play. The blocks came from different angles as well. He came from the weakside, he got one on a double team, and a couple in 1-on-1 situations in the post. He looked quicker on his feet and moved to contest shots rather than just shifting his arms which got him in foul trouble quite a bit last season.
The biggest personnel surprise, was that Cuonzo went with line-ups that included Sam Singer, Grant Mullins and Charlie Moore. 2 point guards and a combo guard. When I asked him about this line-up in the post-game conference, he said that he was comfortable having 3 point guards on the floor and that he was not looking for certain lineups at certain points. The only requisite would be that he wants either King or Kam on the floor at any point to give the team a rim protector.
In terms of percentages, Cal held South Dakota State to 34.6% (9-26) from the field and 33.3% (4-12) from 3. South Dakota State shot 49.7% inside the arc last season, and in their first game this season the Bears nearly dropped their percentage 15%. On the other hand, the Bears shot 45.7% (16-35) from the field and was 40% (6-15) from 3. If you can hold your opponents to under 35% shooting and your offense scores at 45%, you are going to win on any given night.
The Bears went into the half with a 40-28 lead,but allowed the Jack Rabbits to stay in the game by committing 9 turnovers in the first half.
The Second Half.
A Tale of Two Halves? Nope. Not at all. In fact, Cal pressed harder on the gas. The Bears went on a 30-3 run from the 16:30 mark to 5:26 left in the game. The score was 70-38 with under 5 minutes to play in the game. That pretty much sealed the game. Delving into some percentages, the Jack Rabbits actually shot worse in the second half. The shot 23.3% (7-30) from the field and 22.2% (4-18) from 3. The Bears on the other hand improved their FG% by 3% to 48.3% (14-29), and although their 3PT% dipped by 5 to 35.3% (6-17), Cal still knocked down the same number of 3s in the second half.
Other than the big run by the Bears, Cal kept their intensity up on defense. The Bears ended the game with 10 Blocks, led by 4 a piece from King and Kam. Beyond the blocks, the Bears dominated the glass by more than doubling South Dakota State’s total (54-26).
Cal dominated every aspect of the game.
Cal scored 32 points in the paint to SDSU’s 16.
Cal had 17 points off TOs to SDSU’s 9.
Cal had 21 second chance points to SDSU’s 2.
Cal had 6 fast break points to SDSU’s 5.
Cal’s bench scored 40 to SDSU’s bench scoring of 5.
Recipe for Success? Yes. Yes it is.
So who deserves to be the Man of the Match?
Thats an easy one. COME ON DOWN MR. ROGER MOUTE A BIDIAS.
Roger had an amazing night, scoring 12 points on 4/6 shooting and 1⁄3 from 3. He also went 3/3 from the FT Line. Roger added 6 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive, 5 assists, 1 block and 2 steal. Very similar stat line that his brother used to have at the other UC in the Pac-12.
The Bears will have a few days of to prep before taking on UC-Irvine next Wednesday. Hopefully, we will have our dark-horse candidate for National Player of the Year back.
California Love. California Rising.
Some interesting facts about the game for the trivia-intrigued:
- This was Sam Singer’s 100th game as a Cal Bear.
- This was Cal’s 20th straight home victory dating back to last season. It is tied for 7th longest active streak and is tied with Virginia. It is also the second longest in school history only surpassed by the 26 game win streak set from 1958-1960.