I missed the game, so what I’m writing comes from box scores and highlights. Sorry about that.
I thought Cal’s main offensive punch, Allen Crabbe, was going to play in this game. It’s pretty clear the Golden Bears are two different teams with and without him, and he sitting out was probably the difference in the game.
I’m going to guess Cal at least started the game in the zone, just given how they played all year and how USC was able to shoot the 3. If you want to find the difference, it’s Maurice Jones coming off the bench for 22 and shooting 5-6 from beyond the arc. The Trojans shot 61.5% from 3, while the Golden Bears shot 33.3% without their primary threat.
The perimeter defense on “Not Jones” was fine, as Jio Fontan shot 1-10 from the field and Cal’s nemesis last time, Donte Smith, scored just 4. Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson were the problem, as the two combined for 31 points on just 21 field goal attempts. Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders Frison did a great job scoring too, with 39 combined points, but defense was a problem.
USC’s bench scored 27 points, while Cal’s scored 3. That’s another big difference. I know Cal doesn’t really on their bench very often, which has been what Montgomery has done since he got to Cal, but they still could use an impact from the bench. Richard Solomon scored just 2 points when he could have been a key factor.
The 3 point final score differential was pretty misleading, as Cal trailed by more than 10 for a lot of the second and hit some ridiculous shots (2 MSF 3’s?).
At this point, Cal is almost undoubtedly eliminated from an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. 3 games in March will decide Cal’s fate, as far as going to the tournament or not goes. At this point though, it’s more about stopping the bleeding then anything. With a special Sunday start against UCLA, the Bears will have a chance to stop the losing streak against the hated Bruins. Go Bears!