Cal plays well, but blinks late in loss to No. 8 Syracuse

By Morris Phillips

Catching the vaunted Syracuse Orangemen a hemisphere away from the Carrier Dome seemed like a good idea for the Cal Bears.

But that’s only if you haven’t checked the numbers: after Syracuse’s 92-81 win over Cal on Tuesday, the Orangemen are a perfect 8-0 at the Lahaina Civic Center, winning Maui Invitational titles in 1990 and 1998.

After beating Cal, No. 8 Syracuse is poised to win a third title, facing Baylor on Wednesday in the tournament’s championship game.  Cal will face Dayton–narrow 67-66 losers to Baylor–on Wednesday in the EA Sports Maui Invitational third place game.

“I thought we played really, really hard, really pleased with the effort,” Coach Mike Montgomery said.  “We had some lapses of things and I don’t think in that level of game you’re going to be able to win if you have lapses.”

In comparison to the Bears loss to Syracuse in last season’s NCAA second round at San Jose, this was a huge improvement for Cal.  Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs played tentatively, and the Bears struggled to figure out the Syracuse zone in a six-point loss that seemed much bigger.  This time, Cal played well in transition, and gave the ‘Cuse a battle, shooting 51 percent and scoring 81 points.

“I thought watching Cal yesterday that their team this year is much better than last year’s team,” Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said.  “I just think (Jabari) Bird is one of the better freshman composure-wise that I’ve seen.”

The Bears played without center Richard Solomon, who had played 22 consecutive games, but missed Tuesday’s game with an eye injury.  Without their big man, the Bears didn’t back down, getting poised performance by five freshman in their nine-man rotation, and trailing 62-59 with 8:54 remaining when Syracuse pulled away.

“I think the problem was we had some lapses in terms of defense,” Montgomery said.  I think as much as anything, the in-line out of bounds hurt as much as anything.  They probably scored 15 points on in-line out of bounds in the zone.”

Cal was led by Cobbs with 18 points and eight assists.  Bird had 17 points and seven rebounds, David Kravish had 15, and Jordan Mathews 12.  Tyler Ennis led Syracuse with 28 points, and Trevor Cooney added 23.

The Bears outrebounded the Orangemen 30-26, but saw Syracuse shoot 53 percent from the field, and 95 percent from the line, missing just one free throw on the night.

“I like the way we fought without our big guy, Richard Solomon,” Cobbs said.  “I think we played hard and gave them everything we wanted.  Just couldn’t pull it out at the end.”

The Bears fell to 5-1 on the season, and their meeting today with the Flyers provides another opportunity for an significant win as Dayton upset No. 11 Gonzaga on Monday.

Michael Duca on the NCAA

by Michael Duca

LAHAINA, Hawaii–The Golden Bears came out a little edgey in their win over Arkansas 85-77 on Monday night at the Maui Invitational, maybe they were just nervous. The combined records of these two teams in that tournament on before Monday night 30-0. So it’s hard to decide who your favoring. They had a scuffle early on in the game in the sense the Bears were not hitting shots and not making the plays that they wanted to make and it had been rehearsed all week in practice.

It was rehearsed in practice which was a long week of practice and Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said that the team pretty much forget everything they practiced for all week in the first five minutes of the game. A couple of things happened first of all they did start playing the way they were coached to play and the other one that made a huge difference in the past forward Richard Solomon had managed to collect two fouls early in the game and then sit down here Solomon collected a third foul early in the second half.

Montgomery sat Solomon down and in came Roger Moute a Bidias at forward and said to the freshman “you know how to do this I have to trust you and get out there and play” and play he did he played with three fouls for much of the rest of the game and Moute a Bidas fouled out in the final 1:10 of the game collected 11 points and had more than a dozen and half rebounds after that point and began and basically to took over the floor.

The Bears faced Syracuse on Tuesday and their best known for their two-three zone defense and they play that two-three defense better than anyone else in the country. Cal faced them in the NCAA Tournament and did not do well at all and Monty is hoping that those players can carry over because one of the reasons they did not do well is they didn’t really attack the weaknesses of that two three zone.

There aren’t that many of them because the Orange have guys that are 6’8 and 6’9 out on the wings and they make it difficult but their are seams in a two three zone. There are places where you can take the outside it’s going to be up to Cal’s front court to really take advantage penetrating that zone and hit some higher percentage shots.

This was a closer game than the tournament was last year even though they don’t have Alan Crabbe and Crabbe was probably their best outside shooter threat they’re a more veteran club despite Crabbe’s departure and with the inside presence of both Crabbe had a tremendous game and Solomon had a terrific first half on Monday night that indicates that they could play competitive against this Syracuse team.

Michael Duca covers Cal basketball for Sportstalk each week

Step up in competition? Cal’s prepared in win over Arkansas

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By Morris Phillips

Ricky Kreklow has suited up and managed to play just 14 times since he transferred from Missouri to Berkley three seasons ago.  Forced to sit and watch in his transfer year, then frustrated by his nagging injuries and frustrating to the coaches who knew how his scoring ability could positively affect the team, the redshirt junior had been the missing  ingredient needed to transform the Cal Bears into one of the nation’s better offensive teams.

On Monday afternoon in Maui, Kreklow may have officially added his talents to the mix.

Kreklow boosted the Bears with a career-best 17 points as Cal pulled away in the second half in their 85-77 win over Arkansas in the Maui Invitational tournament opener.

The Bears shot 53 percent in the second half, enjoyed a healthy edge 48-32 on the glass, and trailed only twice all afternoon.  Arkansas’ final lead was 35-34 and the Bears responded with a 13-4 run in the ensuing three minutes.   The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers but couldn’t shoot well enough—35 percent in the first half, and 37 percent for the game–to threaten Cal in the final 15 minutes.

The Bears will face No. 8 Syracuse on Tuesday in the Maui semifinals at 4pm.  No. 18 Baylor and Dayton will face off in the nightcap.  The Flyers rallied to upset No. 11 Gonzaga, 84-79.

Cal moved to 5-0 on the young season and passed their most significant test to date after wins in four matchups with teams in the bottom third of Division I.  The Razorbacks of the SEC fell to 3-1 after notable wins over SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Five Bears scored in double figures led by David Kravish with 19.  Jabari Bird and Justin Cobbs added 15 points each.  Richard Solomon had 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble.

Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 21 points off the bench, and Bobby Portis scored five points to lead the Razorbacks’ starters.   Qualls and Anthlon Bell—who added 16 points—started Arkansas’ first three games, but came off the bench against California in a team-mandated disciplinary move.

Cal won’t see the same Orangemen that ended in their season in the NCAA tournament second round last spring.  Of Syracuse’s top scorers, only C.J. Fair remains.  Fair had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Orangemen’s 85-77 win over Minnesota.