All observations about the Bears must be qualified by noting the opponent. UCSD was pesky, but extremely small and slow, not even a superior Division II program.
Most revealing: Justin Cobbs , the transfer from Minnesota, in his first outing in a Bears uniform did nothing to belie the glowing reports of many who saw him in practices last year. He led the Bears in scoring (17) and played a team high 25 minutes. He was particularly instrumental in waking the slumbering Bears in the latter portion of the first half. Scoring 16 points in the last 1/3 or so of the period, he drove to the basket repeatedly and scored, even when fouled on several plays, following each score when fouled with a made free throw. Without concluding on so little evidence that he is superior to Brandon Smith, Cobbs clearly showed that he is more powerful and the better finisher. He also matched Jorge’s line with 4 assists and no turnovers, demonstrating that he is not simply a shoot first point guard. He was 5 for 9 from the field, 1 for 1 from 3-point range, and 6 for 8 from the free throw stripe. Defensively, Montgomery has remarked that sometimes Justin gets caught up in the screens set by the opponent. However, when he is on his man, he applies pressure and “can defend,” to quote Monty. Cobbs’ s play confirmed that he will add much needed depth at the guard position.
Second to Cobbs was David Kravish, the thin, but active freshman post, who played 16 solid minutes, and led the Bears in rebounds with 8 (Kamp was next with 5 in 20 minutes). Kravish also blocked 5 shots, more than the rest of the Bears combined. In making 2 of 2 free throws, Kravish showed a feathery touch. He offered some impressive evidence of why Monty has regularly praised him. Barring unforeseen injury, we will see a lot of Kravish this year.
Thurman and Powers both did some scoring (8 and 12 points, respectively), but did not impress on defense. It remains to be seen what they can offer when the opponents are more challenging. Offensively, Thurman must show the savvy to take only shots from good position and to pass the ball otherwise.
Crabbe and Solomon both have added substantial muscle to their previously lean bodies. Crabbe was particularly impressive at all facets of the game. Solomon not so much, particularly offensively with his shot selection. Richard is another who is now only learning when he has a good shot, when he needs to pass the ball and reset. Defensively, he did make 3 steals, as did Smith and Crabbe.
Smith was most effective in reading the passing lanes to get his 3 steals, had 3 assists against 1 turnover, shot infrequently and poorly and did not score.
Jorge looked fine, but got into early first half foul trouble (2). Hopefully this will not be a pattern, as the team is clearly much stronger with him on the floor. No one matches his energy and the multitude of ways that he makes his team better. Being judicious with his defensive pressure is a knack he still must master.
Kamp looked quite fluid, so hopefully he will be able to manage his knees so that his chronic condition does not too greatly hamper him. His ability and intelligence are clearly no problem.
Bak was fairly good in limited time (2 of 3 field goals, 2 of 2 free throws, 4 rebounds in 9 minutes). If Bak can play more aggressively than he has in his first two years, he likely will see more time on the court.
Monty commented after the game that weakside defensive help was not adequate in this game, needs much improvement. Generally, the team must work hard to be more cohesive. Monty has pointed out that they are not going to beat the better teams with their talent and size alone; it will take superior team play.
Starting Friday, there will be 3 games in 6 days (UCIrvine, George Washington, Austin Peay, all at Cal). Better early evidence about this team soon will be forthcoming.