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Basketball: Bears hope they are ready to jump into the deep end at Maui Invitational

Cal vs. Arkansas: Monday, noon, ESPN2

The landscape changes Monday for the Cal basketball team. The competition at the Maui Invitational is serious.

How serious? Well, the eight teams entered in the three-day event have a combined record of 30-0. Three of them are ranked in the AP Top-25.

“The four games we played, we should have won,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery, whose Bears (4-0) face Arkansas (3-0) in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. “Now all these teams are solid. Some are really good, some could be really good.”

Montgomery is familiar with Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. He was at Missouri in 2008-09 when the Tigers ran Cal off the court in a 93-66 rout at Columbia, Mo.

Back at his alma mater, where he played for Nolan Richardson, Anderson utilizes the same “40 minutes of hell” approach to full-court pressure.

The Razorbacks have forced 61 turnovers their first three games and allowed their opponents to shoot just 28.8 percent from the 3-point arc. They are averaging 88 points per game.

“We spent this week on the track running 40-yard dashes, trying to get back on defense to prepare for Arkansas,” Montgomery said. “We know we’re up against it. No way we can simulate the kind of athletes we’re going to face in this tournament specifically (Monday).

“So it was a difficult prep trying to get the guys on the bench to be about three steps quicker and about two inches taller and run about five steps quicker than they do. But we tried.”

Cal will play Tuesday against either No. 9 Syracyse (4-0) or Minnesota (4-0). Senior point guard Justin Cobbs began his college career at Minnesota, but the coaches and players knew are all gone, and he’d prefer a shot at avenging the Bears’ NCAA tournament loss last season to Syracuse.

“I’m eager to play against that zone (defense) again,” he said.

First, the Bears must get past Arkansas. The Razorbacks are led by 6-foot-6, 237-pound junior forward Alandise Harris (28.3 ppg) and 6-6 sophomore guard Michael Qualls (16.3 ppg).

Five Cal freshmen will get their first taste of high-level Division I competition this week.

“They’re young and naive, they’re not going to know until they see it,” Montgomery said. “We’re still in the process of figuring out how hard we’ve got to play and we’re not there yet. The older guys know.”

Cobbs said he’s not concerned about freshman guard Jabari Bird, who is averaging 13.5 points through four games. Cobbs said Bird won’t be wide-eyed playing on ESPN.

“He knows what kind of player he is,” Cobbs said. “All the exposure for him and the team comes with the team winning and him producing. He has no problem doing that.”

Jeff Faraudo

  • rollonubears

    I hate to say this but ever since 1995, anyone who has played tough D against the Bears has completely shut them down. We finally have a little size, so maybe we escape with a win or two, but all I keep thinking about when I hear about tough defenses is that Notre Dame game where we scored 5 first half points. Hopefully we won’t embarrass ourselves in this thing. A win today would be huge.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Nice optimism rollon, looks like Monday has got u down? Drink a cup of coffee, say “Jabari” ten times, and then repost something. All that negativity will be washed away…promise.

    Go Bears!

  • DaveintheHills

    The full court pressure comes early in the season and the team has seen very little of it from its opponents. It will be up to our leaders, particularly Cobbs, to settle the team down early on.

    I hoping for two wins from this trip – in whatever order. I think that would be a success.

  • Eric

    Rollon is right as to history. Cal has not been able to handle pressure defense during the Braun and Monty eras. It isn’t for lack of decent point guards (Ubaka, Randle, Cobbs, though Jorge was not a great ball handling guard) but lack of smart offense to break the press.

    But whatever is the result of today, it is excellent experience for the freshmen, which hopefully pays off in Pac-12 play.

  • BlakeStreetBear

    “I hate to say this but ever since 1995, anyone who has played tough D against the Bears has completely shut them down.” hmmm…

    Cal has played roughly 600 games since 1995 and in many of them they faced incredibly tough pressure defenses and won a fair share of those games. So it is a great stretch to say that the Bears have been “completely shut down” by teams with good defense. Sure the memories of the mizzou and nd games are fresh and brutal, but those were anomalies over the long haul. Or am I drinking the kool-aid?

    Go Bears!

  • rollonubears

    Fortunately this is as neutral as it gets in terms of venues. Probably not a lot of Bama folks in Hawaii right now. Just talent on the court. It’ll definitely be fun. Wish I didn’t have to work. Better yet, wish I were there.

  • Gobears49

    Just checked and Arkansas is a bit smaller than us. Their starting five (just based upon average minutes played per game) are 6’6″ 6’6″ 6’3″ 6’10″ and 6’2″. Their top two subs (the eighth most played player averages only 5 minutes a game) are 6’5″ and 6’2″. We start a 6’10″ (Soloman) and 6’9″ player (Kravish) and none of our other starters are smaller than 6’3″ (Cobbs). So we will be as tall or taller at all positions, probably including the top two subs.

  • 1brsfan

    GB49- that was the difference in the game. We outrebounded them by 20. Kravish was a montster!