Apparently Mike Montgomery got his players' attention after the lackluster exhibition game effort against San Francisco State. The California Golden Bears defeated the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners by 78-65 to win their opening game before a crowd of 8,715 at Haas Pavilion on Sunday night. The home team led wire to wire, and were never threatened after the first ten minutes.
As is likely to be the case in several games this season, the backcourt duo of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs delivered the goods for the Bears. Crabbe poured in 27 points while Cobbs contributed 22 more. Said Cobbs of his backcourt running mate, “I love playing with this man.” Fans will certainly understand why he feels that way.
Asked how he felt about the opener, Crabbe said, “It felt pretty good. I like the way we came out, we came out with some intensity. We came out harder on the defensive side than when we played San Francisco State. We played hard throughout the whole game.”
Montgomery got a laugh in the press room when he said, “It's always nice to win the first game - because you're not sure you're going to win a game all year.” Kidding aside, the coach seemed pleased with t he effort.
“There were some bright spots, I thought. The thing about Bakersfield was that they are all seniors. They had a winning season in Division 1 last year. I felt like they would not be intimidated.”
“I thought the first half we were really pretty efficient,” said Monty. “I thought the ball was moving, we were finding the open guy.”
Cal's defense also improved - from the exhibition. “Generally at point of attack we were decent,” said Cal's coach. “We've got some work to do there.”
On the downside, the coach was not pleased with Bakersfield's 19 offensive rebounds as David Kravish didn't get much help. Montgomery noted that Cal's 18 turnovers were “obviously too many.” The team has not worked much against pressure thus far in practice, so he expects that to improve.
Cal did seem ready to play from the outset, and led 24-9 at the second media time-out. They made nine of their first 13 shots, with Crabbe definitely in the mood.
It was 9-6 for the home team when the Bears put together a 10-0 run to take control. Crabbe had eight points during the spurt, including a couple of treys. Justin Cobbs had the other deuce with a steal and a slam dunk in transition.
Crabbe finished the first half with 20 points, converting 8 of 12 shots, including a perfect four for four from outside the arc.
The lead eventually ballooned to 23 at 38-15 when Crabbe stuck a baseline turn-around jumper. Cal cooled down in the second part of the opening half, but still finished at 57% on 17 for 30 shooting.
Cal held the visiting Roadrunners to 35% from the field. CSU made just 12 of 34 shots, and were never in it. The biggest high light might have been a banked in trey at the first half buzzer by Javante Maynor that cut the California lead to 45-28.
Maynor stuck another three to open the second half, but that was about as dramatic as things got. As is often the case with these November non-conference games, it's difficult to draw many conclusions.
Cal finished at 53% from the field, but were a disappointing 65% from the line. Several of the misses were front ends of a one and one.
Cal will face Pepperdine on Tuesday night at 6:30, and will try to make it 2-0. Help may be on the way, as Ricky Kreklow may join the rotation. “We're hoping that Ricky might make a cameo appearance on Tuesday, if not, Friday in Denver,” said the coach. He's practiced with us and had no ill effects, so we're hoping to get him back out here pretty quickly.”
With Brandon Smith still feeling the effects of the shoulder bone bruise he sustained in the exhibition game, lack of depth is a problem. Smith's shoulder stiffened up in the second half, and as a result, freshman Ty Wallace played 23 minutes in the backcourt.
Wallace may have been a bit nervous, but he generally played well, and looks to have a bright future at Cal.