BERKELEY – UCLA coach Ben Howland may have given the best scouting report of all on the 2012-2013 Cal Bears. “You win in college with a strong back court, and I don’t know of a better one than Cal has.”
Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe each dominated a half, and combined to score 56 of Cal’s 79 points, and 20 of their 30 baskets, in a wire-to-wire pasting of Pepperdine, 79-62.
Cobbs won the first half, putting up 18 points in 18 minutes on 8-of-12 shooting, adding four boards, and assist and a steal. Crabbe had just nine at the intermission on 3-of-8 shooting with a pair of helpers.
After the break, the two swapped roles, as Crabbe was 7-for-10 from the floor with three three-point baskets, and Cobbs dished four assists. Crabbe finished the night with a career-high 33 points with six rebounds (five in the second half) and was a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.
“I was getting the looks (in the first half),” said Crabbe, “they just weren’t falling. I said I just had to keep shooting. Eventually, they started falling. I just want to help my team score. It will only hurt us if I pass up open looks. If they have a guy on me, I can pass to a scorer, but if I’m open . . . .”
This is a level of maturity and leadership not previously shown by the junior, who acknowledged he will have to take on a leadership role now that he’s one of the elder players on the squad.
After breaking a 2-2 tie at 18:25 of the first period, Cal reeled off six straight points and was never seriously challenged again. Pepperdine started the evening shooting very poorly, hitting just six of their first 21 shots before heating up and keeping the game competitive with 52% shooting in the second half.
Ricky Kreklow, transfer from Missouri, made his Cal debut coming off recent surgery on his right foot to place a screw to strengthen it. He brought a level of energy to the floor that was palpable.
“I wanted to get him some limited minutes and see what that was like,” said coach Mike Montgomery. “He creates an extra dimension for us because he’s so active. I thought he did pretty well. The energy and the effort were there, and I don’t think anyone on the team didn’t notice the extra possessions he got us.”
Crabbe suggested that Kreklow could be called “Jorge light”, because of his willingness to dive for balls and challenge on defense.
“Defense is the one part of your game that’s going to be consistent,” Kreklow said. “Your shots will be there some nights and others it won’t be there, but defending is effort, and that’s always going to be there.”
Montgomery said, “Jorge was pretty unique, but there’s some truth – Ricky’s not afraid of contact, he will throw himself into the fray. Floor burns. When he sets a screen you know it’s been set.
He gives us, at last, some depth on the perimeter, with 5 guys. We have to figure out if we’re going to need 4 on the floor at once because our bigs are not producing at a satisfactory level yet.”
That might be an understatement. David Kravish (0-for-7 from the floor) and Richard Solomon combined for six points in 46 minutes, shooting 3-of-13 overall.
That was mitigated by the lights-out performance of Crabbe, who scored 11 straight points for the Golden Bears over a three-minute stretch early in the second half.
“Obviously,” said Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, “Crabbe is a pro. He will be making a lot of money next year, sorry for Cal fans but he is going to be making a lot of money. He shoots the ball as well as anybody I have seen.”
The duo has scored 105 of Cal’s 157 total points in the first two games. While it’s exciting to watch right now, the Golden Bears must have better balance in their scoring to challenge for a Pac-12 championship this year.
Cal now has five straight road games, starting at Denver Friday evening. The game is televised on the ROOT Sports Network and available to some DirecTV subscribers.