In the wake of their first defeat of the season — an 81-56 thrashing at the hands of host Wisconsin — coach Mike Montgomery is expecting more from his team.
Not just Sunday, when the Bears face No. 21 UNLV at Haas Pavilion.
But all week in practice.
“It’s one game,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve got some underlying issues weve got to solve. We’ve got to play harder in practice. We’ve got hold ourselves accountable. We’ve got to want to try to improve and find ways to do that.
“We didn’t have a good week of practice. Guys didn’t push themselves. I knew that we were going to be in for it there.”
Wisconsin has lost just 16 games at home since the start of the 2001-02 season, and Montgomery understands that winning in Madison was going to be difficult under any circumstances.
“We go back to Wisconsin at our best, doesn’t mean we’re going to win there,” he said. “There were 17,000 people there. Then the (Big Ten champion) football team showed up — that changed the energy level in the building a little bit.”
The game started poorly for the Bears, then got worse.
“As time went on we kind of fell apart,” Montgomery said. “We weren’t catching balls. We lost a little bit of our energy.”
Allen Crabbe scored 25 points, and no one else did much at all.
Especially the Bears’ two big men. Richard Solomon and David Kravish combined for nine points and eight rebounds.
“We could have been up 8-2 if we had just caught some balls and been a little more attentive to finishing plays,” Montgomery said. “We don’t expect any of our guys to just take it 1-on-1 and make all the plays.
“In trying to run the offense we’ve got to be aware of when the ball’s going to be passed, we’ve got to go get it with two hands, and we’ve got to find a way to finish.”
Montgomery said everyone is responsible for making the offense function properly. Point guard Justin Cobbs, perhaps Cal’s best player the first six games, had seven turnovers and no assists at Wisconsin.
“Some of them were not really his fault, balls that should have been caught,” Montgomery said. “Nonethesss, he has to stay within himself and we have to understand what each of our teammates can do and where they need the ball and it’s his job to get it to them in that position.
“There’s some growth that has to take place. You can’t trick your bigs. The bigs got to see the ball and know there’s a chance it’s coming. Make it easy for them and let them use their size to finish plays.”
So, we asked Montgomery, will his players respond to the defeat with a better effort this week?
“Depends how mature they are,” he said. “It’s not an automatic. There’s always lessons to be learned.”
Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.