Perhaps, junior guard Ricky Kreklow, said it best after tonight’s game, “It’s better to win ugly than to lose pretty.” While Kreklow’s words prompted chuckles from Richard Solomon during the post game press conference, the truism behind tonight’s 67-56 score cannot be downplayed.
With a home crowd energized for the team’s first weekend home game, the California Golden Bears started hot early and then cooled off after sloppiness and missed shots took it’s toll in the opening 20 minutes. With a quick 6-0 run to open the game, the Bears opening 20 minutes regressed to a palpable 35.3% from the field and a head scratching, 27.3% from the three point line.
“I thought tonight was a night a little bit disjointed obviously, but I thought we were able to do a really good job defensively and hold them to 32% from the floor, 25% from three,” coach Mike Motgomery conclude after the game.
And it was that defensive effort in the first half that allowed the Bulldogs to shoot the ball horrendously, going 26.7% from the field.
However, despite not being the most prettiest of victories, the Bears were able to step up their game in the second half and get the most of out their veterans. Richard Solomon ended the game as the team’s leader with 17 points and 14 rebounds, a sound double-double for the big man who was aggressive and tenacious throughout the ball game. Solomon credits his maturity on the court, “The biggest thing is just maturing in my game. I worked on my game a lot. I’m a lot more patient. I’m calm and under control,” said Solomon.
Solomon, who confessed in the press conference that as an underclassman he used to think he would be effective on the perimeter, showcased tonight that not only is he trusting his post game unequivocally, Mike Montgomery knew exactly that he was going to be the focal point tonight, “The game plan had to be inside. They’ve lost big guys. They’re having to play small. The big kid inside is 6-9 but he’s not very heavy, and their other guy is 6-7. We intended to go inside and didn’t think they could stop us,” said a confident Montgomery.
Not only was Solomon a main fixture, but just the essence of driving into the paint was key to for the Bears as they were able to go 11-17 from the free throw line and secure a couple bruising, crowd pumping, three point plays.
Justin Cobbs, the team’s other Senior leader, had 13 points and 4 assists and interestingly enough, deferred his duties to freshman guard Sam Singer while the two shared the court. “Justin is a combination guard,” explained Montgomery, “So Sam went in and stabilized us and that gives Justin a chance to feel like o.k. I’m a scorer and I don’t have to worry about trying to pass the ball all the time and I think there is merit to that, because Justin can score – he hit some big shots late.”
Despite finishing the game with an 11 point margin, tonight was not a resounding win for California Golden Bears basketball. Offense especially, they were sloppy on the break and struggled shooting the ball on multiple stretches of the game. However, with the win, thus taking the team to 8-3 on the year, the Bears can learn from tonight’s ugly victory and prepare next week’s big road test against Creighton.
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