Basketball: Cal-SDSU post mortem

A few impressions following No. 14 San Diego State’s 77-57 win over Cal on Wednesday night at Haas Pavilion:

— First of all, Cal played quite well for about 26 1/2 minutes against the best team it’s faced (so far) this season (yes, Kansas visits in two weeks). The Bears outrebounded (38-28) a team that has won the battle on the boards by an average of more than eight per game this season. They generally played well on defense in the first half. And they showed toughness by standing in against a very quick, athletic and experienced team.

— The final 13 1/2 minutes were a disaster. The Aztecs made seven straight shots during one stretch, extending a 41-40 lead to 58-44. Sophomore Kawhi Leonard, whom Mike Montgomery called “a pro,” was superb most of the night. What a beautifully soft jumper. And PG D.J. Gay chewed up the Bears in the second half, scoring all 14 of his points, including 4 for 5 from the 3-point arc.

— Cal’s transition defense was the worst we’ve seen all year. I counted eight fastbreak baskets by the Aztecs — four each off turnovers and missed Cal shots. That had Montgomery more upset than anything. “When you let the ball get thrown over the top of you for layups on the break, it just doesn’t work,” Montgomery said. “It’s basic basketball 1-A. You’ve got to protect your basket.”

— The three upperclassmen are playing great ball. Harper Kamp, Jorge Gutierrez and Markhuri Sanders-Frison combined for 45 of Cal’s 57 points and 20 of their 38 rebounds. But they needed far more help against the Aztecs. The rest of the roster combined for 12 points on 4 for 20 shooting.  “We’re having a hard time coming off the bench,” Montgomery said.

— In particular, it’s a concern that Montgomery cannot afford to take Gutierrez out of the game. “We’ve had a hard time when Jorge’s been out. They had two runs when he was out,” Montgomery said. “He plays so hard he gets tired and when he’s tired he’s liable to get a foul. We need to find some guys off the bench who give us similar type play, and we don’t always get that.”

— Sanders-Frison’s health has to be regarded as a major concern. A podiatrist told him Tuesday he has plantar fasciitis in both feet. He had a career-high 12 rebounds against SDSU, but went out for about five minutes midway through the second half in excruciating pain. “The guy’s a trooper,” Montgomery said, “He’s playing with a lot of pain. He deserves to be healthy — he’s worked his butt off. We’ve got to find a way to get rid of this pain. If someone were to tell me sit him for 10 days and it goes away, a no-brainer. But like most injuries, it doesn’t work that way.”

— The freshmen have had good and bad moments through the early portion of the season, but they seemed in over their heads against competition of this level. The four of them combined for two baskets (both by Allen Crabbe) and six turnovers.

— Poor Gary Franklin is turned inside out right now. On his 20th birthday, the freshman guard shot 0 for 4 and committed three turnovers. Montgomery is trying to let him play through it, partly because Franklin will eventually be a good player and partly because he doesn’t have anyone better. But the guy looks a bit shellshocked on the floor, apparently playing with none of the confidence he had early. His shooting percentage has plummeted to 28 percent.

— The Aztecs improved to 9-0 for the first time in school history and their upcoming schedule strongly suggests they will reach 15-0 before the Mountain West Conference begins. Coach Steve Fisher was pleased with the outcome, explaining, “It was a good, important victory for us against a team that plays tough, is expertly coached, and is hard with the set plays thay they run.”

— Sunday afternoon’s game against Southern Miss is a key to how the Bears figure to wind up in the non-conference. The Golden Eagles are 5-1, the only blemish a five-point road loss to Ole Miss. Cal Poly (3-4) and Hartford (2-7) aren’t likely to offer much resistance and Kansas (8-0) may be too big a mountain to climb, so beating Southern Miss could set the table for an 8-4 non-conference record.

Jeff Faraudo

  • Uh Oh

    Nice write-up, JF:

    I’ve noticed Crabbe loses sight of his man from time to time. He needs to concentrate harder on the defensive side of things.

    That time Kamp launched a 3 and it resulted in a layup at the other end? Kamp’s defender had leaked out, but Crabbe and Smith (especially Crabbe) stood there watching the rebound. He needs to know to get back. I’ve seen him dogging it from an effort standpoint on multiple occasions. I just think it’s that he’s not used to having always be “ON”, as is required at this level. It’s understandable when you consider that he was the offensive machine in H.S. and that it was a shorter game, weaker opponents, with lots of easy wins.

    Here, he’s got to be working hard ALL the time. And he mentally forgets to bust arse and play defense as soon as the shot goes up. No watching! Habit building.

    20 year old freshman? Gee, I didn’t turn 18 until a couple weeks before my freshman year started – my wife was 17 until Thanksgiving of her 1st year. Maybe that was my problem. I’d better hold my kids back and give them the “birthday advantage”. It’s a national trend, you know. Back in the old days, it was considered sheik to graduate the kids young so they could tackle more in life sooner, giving them an advantage. But from sports to SAT scores to being mature enough to handle sex and drugs and rock n roll (er, uh, facebook), getting that extra year of growth is all the rage.

  • Yoda

    If Cal goes into conference at 8-4 I will be very impressed. Montgomery is doing a great job with these kids. It’s unfortunate that the final score won’t reflect how hard they battled S.D. for most of that game.

  • HeyAlumniGo

    MSF’s constant injuries and pain remind me of Alfred Grigsby. He was constantly hurt and I don’t think really played pain free until that 6th year.

  • Davidson

    I was really high on E. Murray coming in this year. However, I’ve watched about 3 games this year and he always looks completely out of it in his limited minutes.

    It showed last night as he fell over with the ball but was bailed out with a foul. He has a hard time getting open and then forgot to rotate when the PG drove and missed his layup–leading to an easy basket on the other end. He then was tied up with a defender (frustration) instead of getting back on D, which lead to another easy basket.

    Hopefully he will click sometime this season, as, at the moment, he is not playing at a Div 1 level.

  • rotfogel

    Emerson Murray appears to be better than Gary Franklin…by a long shot.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Growing pains for these young Bears are to be expected. I noticed those Crabbe mistakes too, Uh Oh, and I assume they will be corrected in time. Franklin needs to focus on defense and getting to his spots for jumpers, and less crazy lane drives please. This team has some very good pieces and should improve, lets hope. I will be rooting for SDSU to go undefeated now! They may not lose for a while. Go Bears!

  • K1W

    8 wins and 4 losses was the record for last year’s Pac-10 champs at the end of December. And this year’s team plays a tougher non-conference schedule, compared to last year, and already has better wins. If they can get to the Pac-10 schedule at 8-4, THAT would be a significant accomplishment.

  • SteveNTexas

    I am still not impressed that SDSU deserves its ranking as Gonzaga is 4-3 or 4-4 -they still have not beaten a top 20 team right?

    We should not lose at home by 20 to anyone- well maybe the Dallas Mavericks.

    Yes of course there are growing pains, but a school only has so much potential and I haven’t seen much to get really excited about.

    Indiana, another young team I follow is picking up the best recruiting class for 2012 and they already have some great recruits for 2013 and 2014. We have nothing for those years – and finding “diamonds in the rough” does not beat getting the best. Our school has alot to offer however on a national level our fans are non-existent and we are pretty much out of serious basketball conversations.

  • Uh Oh

    Maybe, Steve, Monty is going to happy to coach this team for a few more years until he retires. It’s a job in the Bay Area (home) with only a little bit of pressure. He probably wishes he stayed at Stanford instead of going for the NBA job.
    I notice that he’s recruiting kids that he truly likes – it makes his job easier and more enjoyable. He said so in an interview. Something like, “When you have kids you enjoy, it makes coming to work better.” Something like that. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear of many recruits being tied to Cal – he’s not doing the carpet bomb approach, but the surgical selection. If the basketball talent is not as great, so be it. That must be, b/c I can’t imagine recruits not wanting to be at Cal or coached by Monty. Both have tons to offer.