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.