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

Cal runs past Nevada in a high-scoring shootout

By Morris Phillips

Nevada and Cal engaged in an old-fashioned shootout Tuesday with a pair of former prep adversaries turned NBA hopefuls at the center of the action.

For a crowd of nearly 8,000, the Bears’ 92-84 win was satisfying entertainment.  For coaches David Carter and Mike Montgomery, not as much; they immediately harped on the lack of defense.

“I think we’ve got to do a better job of putting pressure on guys and just having that toughness defensively, collectively, and then if they make shots there really isn’t much we can do about it,” Carter said of his Wolf Pack’s defensive effort.

“I thought we made a lot of mistakes defensively,” Montgomery said.  “I think there’s still things we’re learning about how to play defense.  Some of the things that we didn’t do, we tried to talk about.”

Nevada forged an early seven-point lead, 17-10 then watched the floodgates open for Cal.  The Bears went on a huge run, finished the first half with 49 points and shot 55 percent for the game.  The Wolf Pack clearly missed three injured players in their frontcourt, and suffered even more when forward Ronnie Stevens, Jr. was saddled with foul problems.  Senior guard Justin Cobbs had no problem navigating on the offensive end as he racked up 15 points and eight assists, and did a great job of getting his freshman teammates involved offensively.

The Wolf Pack’s Deonte Burton stood as the counterpoint to Cal’s big scoring night as he put up 26 points and led a brief, Nevada second-half run.   Burton, the 6’3” senior, battled Cobbs many times as a prep in Los Angeles, and did so again on Tuesday.   When Burton got inside for a couple of big dunks and drew fouls, it didn’t sit well with Cobbs, eventhough he termed himself and Burton as friends.

“I wouldn’t say he got under my skin,” Cobbs said.  “It’s just frustrating sometimes when the calls were going the other way and myself being so competitive.  He was doing a great job of getting body contact and getting some calls, but it’s just the game of basketball.”

Six Bears finished in double figures, and Montgomery’s tweaking of his starting lineup in the wake of Cal’s disappointing loss at Santa Barbara seemed to work just fine.  Freshman Jordan Mathews and Ricky Kreklow got starts, while Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird came off the bench.  Mathews, Wallace and Bird all scored in double figures along with Cobbs, Richard Solomon and David Kravish.

“We just wanted to change,” Montgomery said of the lineup switch.  “If we can keep it competitive, we want to.  We want to keep guys motivated.  We don’t want guys to get stale or take anything for granted.”

The win allowed Montgomery to move up the all-time victories chart with 664 wins, tied for 27th with UCLA legend John Wooden.  When asked about Wooden, Montgomery took the route of humility.

“The number of wins doesn’t mean much to anybody, but when they say that’s John Wooden, all of a sudden everybody perks up.  I have a little work to do.  I’m 10 national championships short (of Wooden).   There’s nothing to compare other than the fact that I’ve got the same number of wins.  That’s the only comparison there is,” Montgomery said.

The Bears face Fresno State on Saturday at 3:00pm at Haas Pavilion.

Cal dusts Denver, moves to 2-0

 

By Morris Phillips

Mike Montgomery’s carefully crafted non-conference schedule led to big doings on the court as the Bears blew past Denver on Monday, 77-50.

Cal improved to 2-0 on the season and they’ve won 35 of 41 non-conference games under Montgomery in the veteran coaches’ five-plus seasons in Berkeley.

The Bears started fast against the smaller, outmanned Pioneers, establishing a 24-5 lead twelve minutes into the first half.  David Kravish ignited the offense early and finished with 15 points.  Tyrone Wallace led with 16 points and Richard Solomon grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds.

Cal’s 40-20 advantage on the glass and the Pioneers 20 percent shooting in the first half jump off the stat sheet, but both appeared to be a byproduct of the Bears’ coaches’ familiarity with Denver’s sneaky backdoor cuts after playing the Pioneers in each of the last two seasons.

“The main thing you have to do against Denver is maintain your concentration,” Montgomery warned.  “They kind of lull you to sleep.”

The Bears beat Denver by 21 at Haas in 20011.  Last year’s game was competitive for a half in Denver then the Bears pulled away in the second half behind the Crabbe-Cobbs duo.  Because of the experience in Denver, Montgomery knew his defense had to disrupt Chris Udofia and Brett Olson, the Pioneers’ leading scorers.  And his Bears adhered, holding the duo to 16 combined after they got 33 in 2012.

“We didn’t get off to a good start, our shooting, obviously was non-existent, I mean for all intents and purposes.  I mean in general obviously it was a very tough assignment right out of the gate, against a veteran older team,” Denver coach Joe Scott said, touching on the fact that Cal had a game under their belt while the Pioneers were playing their opener.

The Bears shot 59 percent in the opening half, led by 17 at the break, and were actually outshot (50 percent to 44 percent) in the second half, but still outscored Denver by 10.  But Scott’s group was more than obliging in their lack of desire to shoot inside the arc—more than half their shot attempts came from three—rebound at either end, or take care of the ball (committing 14 turnovers).

Denver’s lack of aggression or firepower kept Solomon and Kravish on the floor for ample minutes without worry of foul trouble and the pair came up big most often on put backs and feeds from Justin Cobbs who had six assists.  After just two games, it’s apparent that the two starters will be the only real size in Cal’s nine-deep rotation making it imperative that the two not only stay on the floor, but stay on the floor together.

“When we get going we can be pretty good,” Solomon said.  “We’re long athletic, we can jump, we like to rebound, and we like to get the ball too.”

The Bears opening stretch includes Oakland (of suburban Michigan) on Friday and Southern Utah on Monday.  Of the opening quartet, the SUU Jaguars currently rank as the juggernaut of the group, ranking 212 in the current 351-team labyrinth of Division I.  So the Bears won’t garner any much-needed NCAA style points early, but they do seem to be gaining an identity as a typically-unselfish offensive team with some real potential along with depth on the wings.

Accordingly, all eyes are on 6’6” Jabari Byrd, Cal’s highest-ranking recruit.  The Richmond native seems eager to please, but hasn’t really put it together in either of the first two games.

“He’s going to be really good,” Montgomery said of Bird.  “He was probably a little bit nervous.  He wants to be good.  You just have to keep working.  He’ll be fine when he gets his feet under him and more comfortable with the offense and more comfortable with where his shots are going to come from.”

EARLY OBSERVATIONS:  All of the Pac-12 teams have a game or two under their belts and clear vision doesn’t require a prescription.  Arizona is really good, maybe even a Final Four capable team with the addition of San Jose’s Aaron Gordon and others, likely well ahead of Oregon and UCLA.  Cal is either the best of the next group of four–depending on whether you trust AP, USA Today or the conference media pre-season poll—or not in that group at all.   Cal’s lack of size and overall youth suggest they’ll need the smoothest of rides.  But if that happens, it’s possible that one or more of Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford or Washington could falter pushing the Bears into NCAA consideration in what appears to be a robust three-to-five bid league.

Stanford—picked by most to finish ahead of Cal despite the differences in recent pedigree–looked to be a prime candidate to disappoint on Monday when they fell at Maples Pavilion to BYU in a wild shootout 112-103.  The West Coast conference contender shot 53 percent against the Cardinal and incredibly missed 15 free throws while scoring 112 points.  Stanford looked ragged tactically and lacking defensively allowing the starting BYU backcourt to combine for 57 points.