These Bears Are For Real
While most Cal Alumni are focused on the success of the football team, the basketball team is quietly building its resume. Last weekend the team added its most impressive bullet item to date by winning the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage. Last night it added an additional paragraph by dramatically outplaying a respected Kansas St. team for a 78-48 win.
The game started with both teams being able to score effectively from the perimeter. Cal found itself frustrated by Kansas State's 7-foot-3 center Jason Bennett. He was able to block 4 inside shots by Cal in the first 4 minutes of the game. On the other side of the court, Cal's good teamwork allowed KSU very few opportunities to get the ball inside.
However, about midway through the first half, Cal found the passing lanes it needed to work around Bennett and have an effective inside game. At the same time, Kansas State lost its ability to shoot from the perimeter without making significant inroads on Cal's inside defense.
The result was that Cal was able, with a 15-2 run, to stretch a tight 22-21 lead midway through the first half into a 37-23 end the of the half lead.
As dominating as the end of half run was, it generally seemed that Kansas St. had played fairly well and would have the strength to come back in the second half. Indeed, Kansas St. came into the second half with a renewed intensity and quickly cut the lead to 10. It looked as though they were going to have the momentum.
But Cal responded with a number of breakaway points. The death blow was about five minutes into the second half when Kansas St. took a timeout after another Cal defensive steal turned into a breakaway basket and put Kansas St. down by over 20 points. Instead of coming out of the timeout with a renewed since of purpose, they allowed Cal another breakaway play off of a great defensive rebound and pass up the floor to a streaking Ayinde Ubaka.
In the end, Cal proved to be too good of a team for Kansas St as it continued to stretch its lead to a remarkable 35 points with 3 minutes left in the game. At that point Cal called off the dogs and put the backups in allowing Kansas St. to close to within 30 at the final buzzer.
Beyond the specifics of this game, what is impressive about this year's team is just how good their teamwork is. On offense, they spread the ball around effectively with six different players having 8 or more points.
Of particular note was the play of team leader Ubaka. Not only did he have 14 points of his own, his unselfish play and incredible vision on the court helped get the ball into the hands of the player in the best position to score points. Indeed his 8 assists reflect his unselfish and disciplined play.
Also of note is the surprising play of freshman Ryan Anderson. He was 3-for-4 from three point range and 6-for-10 from the field overall. These numbers, although good in their own right, don't underscore just how well he played. Generally he played with the discipline of a veteran player. He avoided taking many low percentage shots instead passing the ball to others better in a position. When he did take a shot, it seemed that every one where he got a good look dropped.
But it was the teamwork that won this game for the Bears. Unlike last year's team where the opponent's goal was to shutdown Leon Powe, there is no single player on this team who is so critical to a Cal win to be worthy of undue focus. The Bears were both effective from the inside and from the perimeter and passed the ball well.
That team mentality was reflected on defense as well. Cal held Kansas St. to a 34.5% field goal percentage and is holding opponents below 40% on the season. They are doing this by playing fundamentally sound defense and forcing their opponent to take lots of outside shots.
So while you're on campus for the Big Game this Saturday you might want to see about picking up tickets for Sunday's game in Haas Pavilion against 24th ranked Nevada. Cal might just use that opportunity to add another paragraph to its growing resume.