BERKELEY -- Someone forgot to tell the California men's basketball team that Sunday evening's game started an hour earlier than Friday night's season opener. For the first 13 minutes, the Bears struggled, stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way to a 19-18 first-half deficit to visiting George Washington.
The Colonials wouldn't score again for the next 9:15, as Cal went on a 23-0 run that stretched into the second half, finally coming away with an 81-54 win in the first game of the Progressive CBE Classic.
"We didn't start the game like we did the other night," said head coach Mike Montgomery. "We were a little bit lax. The other night, we were charged up and we had a lot of students here. I thought we just had a good edge. We didn't have that tonight. Every time you play, the opponent is going to give you a different look. This group is very athletic and they reached a lot."
Sophomore wing Allen Crabbe had particular trouble early on against the George Washington style of defense, coughing up three turnovers in the first half, while senior guard Jorge Gutierrez tallied three of his five turnovers before the break.
Click Here to view this Link."Crabbe looked like he was stumbling around out there. Jorge had a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers," Montgomery said. "We were just not in sync. I think part of that was just our mental preparation. It was after we had substituted around and everybody had a chance to come out and relax a bit, but once that happened, we found a group that played well together and started executing.
The Bears (2-0) got 16 of their 33 bench points from reserve point guard Justin Cobbs and a game-high nine rebounds from true freshman David Kravish.
"That's kind of what we expect from Justin, really," Montgomery said. "We think he's capable of doing that. I thought his focus was really good, he came in and he made a difference. That's really why we like him, and we like him off the bench because he changes things."
When Cobbs came off the bench just under five minutes into the game, he immediately sparked the offense, driving the lane with no fear of contact and finding open men all over the court.
"I think, just coming off the bench, we just come out and bring effort," said Cobbs. "We just have to pick up where the five starters leave off, or even pick it up, how we did in the second half. David was able to contest shots and rebound well, and get on the break. That helps with our intensity, and getting stops early. We were able to get stops and get on the break, and that's what helped us push the lead in the first half."
Cobbs shot 3-of-6 from the floor and, perhaps more importantly, hit all eight of his free-throw attempts and was 2-for-2 from three-point land.
"If we're not doing things, if we're having problems, he has the ability to come in and change things, and he's done it twice for us, now," Montgomery said. "That's what we need for him to do."
Kravish contributed five points on 2-of-4 shooting and 1-for-2 from the free-throw line in 24 minutes on the floor, after coming down with seven boards and two points in 15 minutes on Friday.
"I have been very impressed with Kravish," Montgomery said. "He's easy to play with. He's a very good rebounder, got a shot block, and he's really easy to play with. He's just always in the right spot, moving, and doesn't disrupt anything."
Energy seemed to be the one thing Cal just could not get right in the early goings, coming out with a lot of fire, but not much direction to it.
With 6:23 left in the first half, the Bears could not seem to solve the Colonials' 1-3-1 zone. Down low, Cal could not find the handle multiple times and committed 10 turnovers in the first 14:10 of the game.
"They were physical out there, so they took a lot of things away," said Cobbs. "It's not just making the first move; it's going to the second. We were biting on one thing and they were able to take the ball, so now, it's fake there, go to the second. They were just more physical than we were, but we made the adjustment."
The Bears came out on fire, at least as far as the pace of play was concerned. Scrambling for rebounds, firing quick shots, Cal could not seem to get in a rhythm, missing four of its first six shots.
"At the beginning, we were going just really fast," Kravish said. "He was telling us that we were just going way too fast. We were playing their game, the game they wanted us to play."
Then, the light turned on for the Bears, and decidedly off for George Washington. After a three-pointer by Colonials point guard Tony Taylor, George Washington shot 0-for-12 over the final six and a half minutes of the half.
"Our coaches talked to us about defense, and on defense, we were active," Cobbs said. "We were getting their first move, we were stopping them, we were getting on the break, and that's what helps, is getting on the break, getting fast outlets and getting down the court."
Taylor was the only Colonials player who made much noise, scoring 20 points with three assists, one steal and two boards in 37 minutes of play. Taylor showed good shakes and was able to stand up well defensively against both Cobbs and starting point guard Brandon Smith.
"He's really good," Montgomery said. "He can shoot the ball. It was interesting, his free throws, they had a tough night from the free throw line, because they only had eight, but they didn't make a lot of free throws. But, he's pretty good. He's got a great mid-range game. I thought we did a good job, by and large. Granted, he had 20, but he was really the only guy they have, so he was forced to have to make a lot of plays. I thought twice, late-clock, the one time we should have been snugged up and not even given him a shot, he hits a three, that's our fault for not going shot clock. But, he's a pretty good guard.
After Taylor's jumper, Cal could do no wrong. The Bears shot 7-of-9 from the field, and, more importantly, hit 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and nailed all three shots they took from beyond the three-point arc, finishing the half with back-to-back threes from Cobbs and Crabbe. Cobbs scored eight points during the 21-0 run at the end of the first half, as the Bears finally began to find holes.
Cal hit from both outside and in, going 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) from beyond the three-point arc and netting 28 points in the paint on the evening and holding the Colonials to 22 points down low and seven second-chance points, largely thanks to Kravish. The skinny, 6-foot-9 rebounding machine pulled down a game-high nine boards, ahead of senior Harper Kamp's eight, as the Bears cleaned up on both the offensive and defensive glass.
"It's real nice to get out there especially because it's the second game of the season," Kravish said. "It's real nice to be out there when it's really close, and you've got Harper and Jorge and everybody else surrounding you and you know the game's on the line, so it's really fun playing with a team when everyone's going together, and everyone's bringing the intensity and the effort that we needed."
Kravish came in to relieve sophomore Richard Solomon, who got in early foul trouble in the first half and played just 12 minutes on the night. In the first half, Solomon played just four minutes while recording no stats. In the second half, though Solomon came out and played like a man possessed, scoring two points, blocking one shot and pulling down three boards before leaving after recording his third foul with 16:39 remaining. Cal out-rebounded George Washington by the count of 38-22 on the evening.
"Rebounding was better," Montgomery said. "We've been harping on them about rebounding, and had a pretty good edge. We've been on them about bench play, and we got better performance there. 15 turnovers is probably too many, some of the were mistakes that I don't think we generally would make, so I'm not too concerned about that, as we continue to work on our offense."
Even Crabbe got into the mix on the glass, pulling down five rebounds of his own, while scoring a game-high 21 on 8-of-14 shooting to mark the eighth time in his career that he's gone over 20 points in a game.
Three players made it into double-digits on the night, with Gutierrez netting 15 on 6-of-9 shooting and Cobbs providing some much-needed spark and aggressiveness at the point.
Despite not starting the game, Cobbs did see early action, entering after just 4:48 and finishing the game tied with Gutierrez for the game-high in assists, with five.
"It's just getting my momentum going, getting a feel for the game and making sure I'm aggressive, that's the main thing," Cobbs said. "I just came out with the mentality that I'm going to be aggressive and that I'm going to make plays tonight."
Montgomery had nine players playing until the final moments of the game, when he inserted freshmen walk-ons Robert Filley and Raffi Chalian. All 12 dressed players recorded at least one minute of time on the floor, with Rob Thurman still on the shelf with an injury.
"What I'm trying to do is develop depth, and I don't want to run Harper and Jorge and Crabbe into the ground," Montgomery said. "I'm trying to keep other people in the game. We have to find combinations of people that can play together and maintain. If we're good with a certain group and we get a lead, I'd like to be able to put guys in and keep that lead, and not give it up."
After stretching their lead to as many as 27 points with 13:22 left in the second half, the Bears saw the margin shrivel to as little as 16 with 5:26 left in the game.
"A couple of times we've been up quite a bit and then we've let them back in, and almost had to put those guys back in," Montgomery said of his starters. "I don't want to be dependent on that, mentally or physically. We're just looking to develop eight, nine, 10 guys that can play quality minutes and maintain a certain level of play."
-- Sunday night's game was the first ever meeting between Cal and George Washington.
-- The Bears have held a lead of 20 points or more at the half in each of their first two games.
-- Cobbs' eight points at the half surpassed his previous career best of seven, set against Purdue in the semifinals of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament when he was a freshman at Minnesota.
-- Cal shot 58.3 percent in the first half, making 14-of-24 field goals.
-- Kravish played 14 minutes in the first half and recorded five points and five boards.
-- With Sunday's win and Friday's 77-56 win over UC Irvine, the Bears won their first two games by at least 20 points for the first time since 1995-96, when Cal defeated Northern Arizona 111-83 and Texas Southern 112-73.
-- Crabbe finished the night 5-for-8 from three-point range, the first time a Bears player has made at least five threes in a game since he sank five at Oregon State on Feb. 26, 2011.
-- With the win, Cal improved to 22-3 in non-conference home games under Montgomery.