Nothing complicated about dissecting Cal’s 70-56 loss to the Trojans: USC was too long, too quick, too strong, too aggressive.
“They were bigger in the post, quicker on the perimeter,” coach Mike Montgomery conceded.
Montgomery suggested the Bears’ failure to open a bigger lead early while their man-to-man defense was containing USC probably cost them.
“I felt like we could have been up 10, 12, 14 points. We got the ball exactly where we wanted it, but we couldn’t score,” he said. “At that point, we seemed to lose a little bit of steam.”
But everyone, starting with Montgomery, said the team is eager to play again.
“I would think we’d be a very strong NIT team,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “We’ve had one hell of a year, given the circumstances. If the NIT comes along, we want jump on that as a springboard.”
“We don’t want the season to be over now,” agreed freshman Allen Crabbe.
The NIT pairings are set to be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. Cal expects to get a first-round home game, either on Tuesday or Wednesday. They requested a 7 p.m. tipoff, although nothing is guaranteed.
One reporter tried to ask Jorge Gutierrez what kind of team he expects the Bears to be next season. The junior guard was having none of it.
“We’re not done with this season yet,” he said. “We’ve got a game next week and we’ve got to focus on that game.”
Against the Trojans, the Bears could get nothing going inside on offense. Harper Kamp had three shots blocked and Cal could rarely even get the ball to Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who attempted only four shots. The two combined to shoot 4 for 13 and scored only eight points between them.
Gutierrez had an off day, shooting 2 for 10 and turning the ball over seven times. Brandon Smith shot 4 for 5, but had six more turnovers. And the Cal guards could not stay in front of USC’s quick perimeter guys.
Crabbe scored 21 points (13 in the second half) and is averaging 22.5 over the past four games, since becoming fully recovered from his concussion. Fellow freshman Richard Solomon was overmatched a few times, as you’d expect, but he also had 11 points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a pretty nice 20-minute contribution.