Michael Duca and Morris Phillips on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca and Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–The thing about Cal facing Creighton and losing last weekend in that non conference game is that loss won’t help them as we approach the NCAA Tournament on whose going to go and who isn’t. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery knows there’s not that many opportunities in the non-conference to make them last.

When the Golden Bears went to Maui and lost to Syracuse 91-82 November 26th Syracuse is ranked number two in the nation right now but they weren’t ranked number two when Cal played them after raking up a few more wins. The Bears didn’t beat Syracuse and they didn’t beat Creighton that will hurt them come selection time.

As far as the Bears next opponent Furman is concerned whom they play at Haas on Saturday they won’t give Cal much of a battle that will be the final non conference game for the Bears and they will see Stanford on January 2nd at Maples Pavilion to open their first conference game in the new year.

The Bears best game in non conference play was the game against Oakland which they won 64-61 the team from suburban Detroit that was in Berkeley on November 15th that game went down to the last two minutes. Oakland went onto do some almost wonderful things.

The Bears also took Michigan State down to the end of the wire that game was played at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. Non conference basketball is where you don’t want any slip ups like losing to someone your not suppose to lose to because people will come and hurt you come selection tme.

The NCAA will select someone whose in the top 40 who will hurt you, especially since Cal comes off that loss to Creighton which is disappointing and you’ll see them bounce back pretty well. The Bears are in Stanford Jan 2 and you don’t want to open the conference season with a loss and Cal hasn’t had much success at Maples lately. The Bears have lost the last three or four in Maples.

The Bears have won at Stanford only once since Montgomery was the coach the win was in his first year it’s a tough place to play for Cal. Montgomery doesn’t get much a of reception down there any more even though he was a great coach at Stanford for many years and they’re going to have to deal with Stanford and their size. If anything we know that Stanford doesn’t shoot the ball well all the time and hopefully Cal can take advantage of it.

Morris Phillips covers the Cal Bears with Michael Duca for Sportstalk Radio

Michael Duca on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–There were a couple of performances from last Monday night’s game at Haas Pavilion against the UC Irvine Anteaters that Cal put on that really didn’t even jump out at you from the stat sheet. That were critically important Tyrone Wallace had a career high 11 rebounds from the lane position last night and he had Justin Cobbs as Cal’s point guard. When they lost in the consolation round to Dayton in Maui David Kravish was just about worn out by them and Richard Solomon was missing his second straight game with a cornea operation.

The Bears had no real post presence they couldn’t go inside outside so all they could do is shoot outside the zone and Cobb put up 31 points and they lost by two or three handful of points about 18. Cal’s Sam Singer had three points but he had three rebounds and Cal assisted on all three quarters of their baskets and things just looked a whole lot better than they did in the game versus Dayton in Maui.

The offense looked pretty good and the defense looked even better in the first half, Irvine missed ten straight and then they hit two out of three and missed eight more and rode in the half so the end of the half shooting hitting two of their last 21 shots and your probably not going to win a lot of basketball games doing that. Solomon is now sporting goggles from getting his eye scratched in the Dayton game and has decided to wear goggles for the rest of the year.

Solomon was not instructed to by doctors he didn’t need to it’s his own choice he doesn’t want to go through that again he doesn’t want to get someone’s finger in his eye. That was a pretty nasty abrasion, Solomon’s eye was swollen shut for two days he could not see and he could not open it. Getting back out on the floor he was rusty and you could tell a week without game action and his timing was not fully there but he set the tone literally from the get go.

Solomon lacked ten inches on Irvine’s center from Senagal, Mamadou Ndiaye who is 7’7 and one of the three or four tallest players ever to play college basketball and Solomon won the opening tip and he did it with climbing athleticism and that is basically how he got Ndiaye to get into foul trouble early in the first half and he picked up his second foul just about 3:50 into the game and sat the rest of the first half. Ndiaye got five and half minutes play in the second half.

Solomon challenged Ndiaye going straight at him early in the game and scored the first five points of the game for Cal and in the second half David Kravish hit Cal’s first ten points and had 12 of the first 16 and he hit six shots in a row and five of them were Ndiaye who was in the game in the second half. So instead of lurking in the backs of too many peoples minds and he is huge and he does have a wing span.

Most big men can get up close to Ndiaye and use their athletic ability and quickness to create some space while he’s trying to back away and make shots and they did. They hit a lot of mid range jumpers.

Michael Duca does commentary on Cal basketball each week for Sportstalk radio

Cal passes big test against 7’6″ Ndiaye and UC Irvine

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By Morris Phillips

The 7’6” sensation known as Mamadou Ndiaye came to Haas Pavilion on Monday night and the Cal Bears needed to quickly determine whether the Senegalese freshman would be an oddity or a menace like he was three weeks ago in UC Irvine’s wire-to-wire victory over Washington in which he had 18 points, eight rebounds and an eye-popping nine blocks.

And what was the answer to the Ndiaye conundrum?  Incomplete.

In Cal’s 73-56 victory, Ndiaye played just 10 minutes due to foul trouble and he and the Anteaters couldn’t shoot a lick early, trailing by double digits for the final 34 minutes of the game.   Consequently, Ndiaye managed to dominate only the post-game quote sheet.

“That guy, when he posts up he has got his hands right at your face,” Cal’s 6’9” David Kravish said.  “You are looking right into his chest.”

“I was staring at his chest the whole game,” 6’11” Richard Solomon said.

“He’s a big dude,” Coach Mike Montgomery said.  “He got into our heads a little bit… just because guys had to figure out what they could do.  We knew that he doesn’t like to come away from the basket very much.”

What could have been a long night and a close game wasn’t in great part due to Kravish, who stepped away from the basket and hit a number of shots on his way to 19 points and 10 rebounds, and Justin Cobbs, who’s never shy about taking his game into the paint, which he did frequently Monday in compiling a game-best nine assists.

Now that the affable Ndiaye–who just last year was tooling around Huntington Beach on his oversized bicycle—has played nine games in his collegiate career, there’s telling tape for opposing coaches to dissect.  Montgomery’s among the best of the practitioners and his Bears took heed, only twice getting too close to Ndiaye and his ridiculous wingspan to have their shots blocked.  Instead, Cal’s ball movement for the most part was crisp and leading to numerous, high-percentage shots.

Meanwhile, Ndiaye had trouble getting out of his own way.

“He didn’t make the adjustments he needed to make,” UC Irvine Coach Russell Turner said.  “He got an offensive foul early, got two rebound fouls.  He needs to avoid those mistakes.”

Cal got a major lift from Solomon’s return from missing the final two games in Maui due to a corneal abrasion.  Solomon wore protective glasses, something he says he will do for the remainder of the season, not wanting to revisit the painful and scary eye injury that took place when an opponent inadvertently caught his eye.  Again it was apparent that Cal’s much better at both ends, but especially defensively, when both Kravish and Solomon are in the game together.

In Solomon’s absence, Syracuse and Dayton both had big shooting nights in handing the Bears their first two losses of the season.

The Bears travel to Santa Barbara Friday night where they will meet the Gauchos before returning home next Tuesday to face Nevada.

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.

Michael Duca on Cal football and basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–Anytime you have a chance to make history and this year the Cal football Bears have made history, they are among the worst team among the FDS in every category and therefore in the long and storied history of the Big Game which is coming up this Saturday at Stanford they are the biggest underdogs ever. Do you want to know what their in store for?

This will shock you but I would tell you to take Cal and points in this game on Saturday and the only way that Cal could be able to beat the spread with their 32 points and their never going beat the spread and hold the score down and the only way your going to hold the score down is to run the football. Their going to actually concentrate on running the football and Stanford is going to expect them not to run the football.

Their going to concentrate on trying to control the ball on the ground and Cal can’t do that they only have two Pac 12 quality lineman and that’s the problem. These games, these rivalry games can throw everything out the window and they don’t even bother printing these in the racing forms because there is no forms to these games. Remember Joe Kapp’s last game was an 17-11 victory over a Stanford team that was a four touchdown favorite.

Is there any chance for Cal to pull out a miracle and shock the crowd at Stanford with a win answer: I don’t think the band will be on the field.

Cal hoops: Playtime is over the real games start next week in Maui for the Maui Invitational to face some really good teams, the Maui tournament will see Arkansas, Baylor, Cal, Chaminade, Dayton, Gonzaga, Minnesota, and Syracuse, and Cal will find out what a good team really is. This team is doing well going into the tournament they are 4-0 the last time Cal was 4-0 going into a tournament they were riding high and they were fat, dumb, and happy and they went back to Wisconsin and played a Big Ten that just physically manhandled them.

From the time they tried to leave the locker room and until the time they got on the bus to go back home they have not forgotten that and they have brought that and a little bit more focus in the Pac 12. They realize they have a chance to be a really decent team this year. They may not be at the very top pius echelon of the Pac 12 this year looks like Arizona and UCLA are those big teams but Cal is right behind them which means all they need one or two players or wins in winning the league and that’s always been their goal.

Guard Justin Cobbs he was fine the other night after recovering from an injury. The first question we asked Cal head coach Mike Montgomery last Monday night after beating Southern Utah was what did he learn about his team after a game like that? Montgomery was honest he said, “not very much.” Southern Utah was overmatched physically and talent wise from about the time they got off the airplane.

However their coached by a former player at Stanford Nick Robinson suddenly it gave Robinson an opportunity to play a in bigger arena in front of 4,000 to 5,000 people which is more than who their going to play in front of in Utah.

Michael Duca does commentary on Cal football and basketball each week for Sportstalk Radio

Cal tops Southern Utah, improves to 4-0

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By Morris Phillips

Soon after the opening tip on Monday at Haas Pavilion, things went south for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

The Cal Bears scored the first six baskets of the game and established an early 14-0 lead.  From there, the Bears cruised to a 75-47 victory to improve to 4-0 on the young season.

“It was 12-0 before we knew it, and we had a hard time coming back from that,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said.  “We got some good shots, but they weren’t falling for us.”

Robinson was a role player on Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s best and final teams at Stanford, graduating there in 2005.  In a short time since, Robinson has elevated himself to a Division I head coach after several stints as an assistant at various programs.

While Robinson’s rapid ascent is quite impressive, his team’s performance on Monday wasn’t.  The Thunderbirds struggled with the bigger, quicker Bears from the jump.

“We substituted a lot early,” Montgomery said.  “It seemed pretty obvious that they were outmatched.”

“They were flat-out better than we were,” Robinson said.  “(Cal) was more disciplined defensively, they did a great job on the boards, and hit open shots that we weren’t capable of hitting.”

All 13 Bears that suited up got action in the first half on Monday.  And although the frequent substitutions didn’t do much for continuity, it didn’t affect progress on the scoreboard.  The Bears led 33-10 after 15 minutes with the Thunderbirds shooting 22 percent in the first half.

Richard Solomon contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the win.  Tyrone Wallace had 15, and the trio of Ricky Kreklow, Jordan Mathews and David Kravish had nine each.

A.J. Hess led Southern Utah with 15 points.  The Thunderbirds shot 29 percent for the game and committed 15 turnovers.

Cal sees a jump in competition on Monday when they travel to Maui and open the Invitational against Arkansas.

Cal’s Wallace shot on in season-opening win over Coppin St.

By Morris Phillips

Among Mike Montgomery’s mix of veterans and greenhorns, sophomore Tyrone Wallace may possess the greatest potential for growth.  In the season-opener on Friday, it appeared Wallace may be ready to realize that potential.

Wallace collected 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds in Cal’s 83-64 win over Coppin State at Haas Pavilion.   The still rail-thin swingman looked much improved from his up-and-down freshman campaign in which he played in every game, and started 20 times, but shot just 34 percent, including just 22 percent from three.

“Basketball, 24-7, this off-season,” Wallace said when asked about the growth in his game.  “All the work I put in is really translating over to games and I am really confident right now in my shot.”

Wallace knocked down half of his 14 shots, including three of six three-point attempts on his way to leading the Bears in scoring.  Cal depended on heavily on its starters in dispatching the Eagles, playing them extensively in a first half in which the Bears established a 15-point, halftime lead.  Cal’s shooting and wow-factor improved in the second half as high-flying freshman Jabari Bird put his imprint on the game.

Justin Cobbs added 16 points and six rebounds, and Bird chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds.  Coppin State was led by Sterling Smith with 16 points and Arnold Fripp with 10.

The Bears have won all six of their season openers under Coach Montgomery and are attempting to make a fifth NCAA appearance under the watch of the veteran coach.

“There were a lot of bright spots,” Montgomery said.  “We had some really good individual performances…  I thought we lost our attention span defensively a little bit.  There was probably a point in time where we didn’t feel threatened so we didn’t play quite as hard defensively.”

The Bears are picked in the middle of a crowded Pac-12 conference race, primarily because the eight newcomers outnumber the five returners.  Wallace stands out because he’s not quite a veteran, but with 21 starts under his belt, experienced enough to know what Montgomery demands at both ends of the floor.  The Bakersfield native became a natural at the defensive end, but given his statistics, he could make a great deal of growth on offense.  Friday all that was apparent as Wallace knocked down open shots and found his teammates when appropriate.

According to Coppin State Coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell, the Bears offensive versatility gave his Eagles fits, as much as their lack of size made them vulnerable to the Bears in the paint.

“They shot the threes, made us extend a lot more, and then they started taking it in,” Mitchell said. “They did a tremendous job.”

The Bears host familiar opponent Denver on Tuesday in the continuation of a four-game homestand.  Cal may not get its first real test until Thanksgiving when the Bears travel to Maui and open the tournament there against Arkansas.