After a combined six points in a losing effort against the UC Santa Barbara Guachos, Mike Montgomery chose to sit starting guards, Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace against the visiting University Nevada Wolf Pack in favor of Jordan Mathews and Ricky Kreklow.
“We’re just trying to develop our depth, there’s no real rhyme or reason to it,” explained Mike Montgomery coyly.
Regardless of the method, those two players and the team seemed to answer the call as the California Golden Bears defeated the Wolf Pack, 92-84. Over the course of forty minutes, the Bears shot their hearts out as not two or three, but six players reached double figures. David Kravish and Jabari Bird led the way with 16 points apiece, but you can take your pick from the lot.
Richard Solomon brought down five boards while scoring 14. Tyrone Wallace was anything but cold and earned 14 points and 5 assists after 23 minutes of aggressive basketball. The leader of the squad, veteran point guard, Justin Cobbs bagged 15 points and as usual was the team leader in assists with eight. And there was also Jordan Mathews.
Mathews, freshman guard and San Francisco native, who has been playing brightly from Cal’s bench, excelled again tonight garnering 13 points and was a real driving force or the Bears in the opening 20 minutes when the Wolf Pack opened up red hot, shooting 60 % form the field and 66.6% from the three point line in the first half.
“I thought that we made a lot of mistakes defensively but I think there are things we’re still learning about how to play defense. We tried to fire the ball screen and didn’t do a very good job… had a hard time of getting our post guys up aggressively,” mentioned Montgomery.
Humble as ever, Mathews expressed his happiness to play any role that Montgomery provides him and credited the veterans, specifically Justin Cobbs for helping him elevate his game:
“Justin has taught me, Jabari, and all the freshman (that) you can’t really dwell on plays. The game is coming at you so fast, your memory has to be really short. And he’s told us by example that your confidence has to border on cockiness because the guy you’re playing is just as confident in his abilities, as you are in yours. If you drop back for even a second, he’s coming at you.”
And he seems to be adapting quickly according to Montgomery, “Jordan is a coaches son and he takes criticism, he’s a tough guy, and he wants to learn. He asks questions and Justin likes people to come to him. He’s not a guy afraid to take a big shot, he’s a good shooter, so we just need to keep bringing him along defensively.”
With Nevada boasting one of the best point guards in the country in Deonte Burton, a player who was averaging 22.9 points a game going into tonight’s contest and could have gone to UCLA, the Bears’ Justin Cobbs was going to be entrenched in a battle from the moment of the opening tip. Burton finished his night with 26 points and a couple memorable dunks, such as the earth shattering poster over Kravish, to boot. For college, Burton has a shooting guards body, but plays the point. He’s explosive, very athletic, but his 6-1 height will lower his draft value to the second round.
Despite the NBA potential, Burton’s eye catching moments did not dwell on Cobbs, who not only saw Burton as an opponent, but also as a familiar face, “We played against each other many times, childhood friends, we’re both from LA. I wouldn’t say he got under my skin, it’s just frustrating at times to see the calls go the other way and I just want to win. He was doing a great job at getting body contact and getting so many calls, but it’s the game of basketball,” Cobbs mentioned coolly after the game.
Overall, the Bears did a great job at getting multiple people involved, scoring timely and emphatic buckets from Bird and Kravish in the second half, but their defense as a whole lacked Tuesday night. Along with Burton showcasing his athleticism, Michael Perez was able go 5-8 from three and got 18 points.
“They were knocking down shots. Coach just talked about doing your work early, get in the right spots before they catch the ball and they were catching the ball in the right spots and making plays,” said Cobbs.
And while Cal’s depth was tested and developed tonight, the team will need bring that same mindset when defending the basket, despite the excitement a back forth game such as Tuesday night’s brings.
With the win, Cal improves to 7-3 on the season and will put their undefeated home record to the test against the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday.
You can follow Jeremy on twitter @jermg11