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Recap: Cal Defense Suffocating in Win vs Arizona State

Holds ASU to 1 FG in Crucial 8 Minute Stretch

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

When Shannon Evans made his second Free Throw to put the Sun Devils ahead 61 - 60, you got the sense that this game might be slipping away from the Golden Bears. The defense had been stout, but Ivan Rabb was on the bench with 4 fouls, and the offense had stalled in his just over two minutes on the bench.

Kingsley Okoroh had other plans.

The 7 footer took over the game for the next 3 possessions. Okoroh found a cutting Bird for a dunk, threw down a thunderous dunk, and then blocked Shannon Evans, grabbed the rebound and advanced the ball on a great outlet pass to Sam Singer for a layup.

67-61 Cal. Right back in control, and they never looked back.

Okoroh’s stretch was more culmination or breakthrough than spark, however. Cal’s defense had been suffocating in the second half, holding ASU to 31% shooting, and only 1 FG allowed over the game-deciding eight minute stretch. This defensive dominance needed to be validated on the offensive end, and as soon as it was, the floodgates opened.

The Golden Bears made their final eight field goal attempts, while the Sun Devils were unable to convert from the field until the game was in hand. Jabari Bird came alive, Mullins continued his big offensive game, and before we knew it Cal was up 15.

RABB’S BIG 1ST HALF

Ivan was really firing on all cylinders in the first half, thanks in part to some creative play-calling to neutralize the double team that has been so effective against him. Cuonzo and staff made a conscious effort to get Rabb the ball while in the middle of the floor, or while moving towards the basket. This had a doubly positive effect, as he was in a better position to pass and see the whole floor from the middle, making the next pass after the double team less predictable. Cal’s perimeter players, Mullins in particular, really benefited from this development.

That, in turn opened up the floor even more for Rabb, and he took full advantage of the space and time to work. 16 & 10 is a great game, let alone half.

It will be an interesting wrinkle if Rabb steps out and shoots from 3 more often. Please let this happen.

MULLINS FINDS HIS SHOT

It was good to see shooters able to capitalize off of the attention Rabb (deservedly) draws. Grant Mullins had a tremendously efficient game, going 7-10 from the field, and 5-8 from 3pt range. Mullins needs to play more minutes with Rabb in spite of his defensive limitations. They work well together and he can plain shoot.

SOME OBSERVATIONS

  • While the play-by-play announcer was fawning over Kodi Justice, Sam Singer played picture perfect, hounding defense on him. I chuckled.
  • Grant Mullins is really creative around the rim. His ability to finish layups he has no business making is rather fun to watch
  • Bill Walton, are you sure it was a picture book of California that made you “high”?