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.

Weak scores on and off the field for Cal football

Michelle Richardson on the NCAA by Morris Phillips

SEATTLE–It’s real sad news that Cal’s graduation rate is at number 72 out of the major colleges in the nation and the team is not winning and their supposed to win in the classroom that’s what the university is all about. That’s why universities in the Pac 12 conference which is an academic conference but not at the highest level unfortunately but near the highest level.

The football team is not performing well on the field and it hasn’t been a good first year for Cal head coach Sonny Dykes in his program and that’s some bad news. I don’t think the Bears are going to win this weekend either as they get ready to face the Huskies in Washington so they would fall to 1-7 on the season.

The academic news is disturbing because if guys can’t perform in the classroom they can’t get on the field, they can’t help the school. It’s surprising but I’m sure they’ll get it worked out while it’s depressing you have to assume the school is going to work it out with the group they have now with guys going to class.

Back in 2009 Cal had some of the worst graduation rates in the NCAA until former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford got his students to turn around their academic scores in the classroom and got the team to start winning. Tedford won a bunch of recruiting battles. He had successes with his students, with recruiting and getting them good test scores even though Tedford was heading out the door.

Tedford bears a great deal of responsibility of getting the program off the ground at that time but Dykes is the coach now and these are his kids and this is his team he needs to get on the football field and to coach his problem. Dykes is not going anywhere there’s so much money involved in getting Tedford out and paying the new coach there won’t be any changes.

Cal must clean their problem up, they have to internally, they have to get it fixed. It’s not what the university is all about. Once again Tedford is the origin of the problem but it is truly and squarely on Dykes at this point. Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour did not comment on the story only to say that she will look into the low academic situation of the graduation rates and “put systems in place that we believe will raise for under preforming teams.”

None of the players with graduating issues were recruited by Dykes and a majority of them were not on the Cal Men’s basketball team, “a top priority for this program since this staff was formed has always and will always be for our student-athletes to complete their undergraduate degree.” said Cal men’s basketball head coach Mike Montgomery.

Tedford said about the low graduation rate, “(it was) very concerning, it makes it seem like we weren’t dedicated to academics, no matter what anybody says that’s not true, people have good intentions but life goes in a different direction, they rarely come back. Looking back the lesson I learned was to have them graduate in four and half years.”

Morris Phillips is filling in for Michelle Richardson on NCAA commentary this week