This may be hyperbole, but there is something special with Cal’s men’s basketball right now. Following a so-so first half for both teams, Cal sprung up late in the second half and cruised in a 62-46 win over Colorado. There are makings of a team that can go far in the NCAA tournament in Berkeley, and tonight was a perfect example.
Of all the teams that had me worried as a Cal fan, Colorado made the least sense. Teams like Arizona and UCLA are always worrisome, given the history, and Stanford, as a rival, is a natural concern. Washington tends to be a challenge, and when the Bears were slumping, they were easily handled by the Huskies (in Berkeley!).
Colorado, being new to the conference, was always a bit of a question mark. Before leaving the Big 12, they experience success, and were a team on the up . They entered the Pac-12 while it was underperforming, and with their athleticism, they won the conference tournament in their first year. In fact, they beat the Golden Bears along the way, a game which was sorely disappointing.
It’s natural to be worried about them, as they won the first game up in Boulder by ten. Once again, Coach Montgomery’s squad looked like it didn’t have the athletes to handle players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Roberson, and Xavier Johnson. But, this afternoon, Cal showed that it can hang just fine, and that with an elite coach like Mike Montgomery, anything is possible.
Although the output from Allen Crabbe wasn’t at his typical level, others on the team picked up his slack. Most notably, freshman Tyrone Wallace scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds (as a guard!), while Justin Cobbs added his own 16. David Kravish held his own working the paint and the perimeter, recording a 16 point/11 rebound double-double. This was quite the opposite of the last game, when Cal had a top heavy performance, while the Buffs had a better spread of contributions. The only Colorado player in double digits was freshman forward Xavier Johnson.
After a low-scoring first half, Cal took a 24-20 advantage into the locker room. Up until about the ten-minute mark in the second, the two teams had paced each other quite closely. On a quick turnover by the Buffs, however, Allen Crabbe found Tyrone Wallace on the breakaway for a SportsCenter-type dunk, getting the crowd going and serving as the impetus for the remainder of the game. From that point on, the Bears were too much, and the rest is now in the books.
It was a good defensive effort by the Bears, but they still have some refining to do on the offensive side. They had 10 turnovers to Colorado’s five, and there are still a few too many mistakes — the kind that will really hurt in a tournament game.
Colorado now has to host the two Oregon schools for the final week of regular-season play, and the Golden Bears will end their season at home against Stanford. This won’t be an easy task, though. The Cardinal are a talented team, and in rivalry games, all logic tends to be thrown out the window. Cal has at least locked up that first-day bye in Las Vegas, but with a win on Wednesday night, and a few lucky breaks, they’ll be sitting as the top seed and the regular-season conference champions.