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November 16, 2011
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BERKELEY -- For the third game in a row, the story for the No. 22 California men's basketball team was not one of the more established stars. It was neither Jorge Gutierrez -- who scored a team-high 14 points -- nor Harper Kamp -- who scored 12 points and pulled down nine boards -- who made the biggest impression in the Bears' 72-55 win over Austin Peay.
It was the All-Elbow Kid from Lee's Summit, Mo. -- true freshman David Kravish -- who proved to be the bright spot, scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, pulling down three rebounds and blocking one shot while shooting 6-of-7 from the floor, helping to punch his team's ticket to the final four round of the Progressive CBE Classic in Kansas City.
"I think that he's going to get against some big, old burly big guys where they're going to take him down low and try to punish him a little bit, and that's going to be a real challenge," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. "We wanted to, with trying to not run people out, minute-wise, that means somebody had to play better. I think David did a good job on the hedges, he did a reasonable job on the boards, although he didn't get much, and he tends to make the open shot. Sometimes, a team that's quicker, it's not the best situation for a couple of the other kids, and they're maybe not as quick at the point of attack."
Kravish did not miss a shot from the time he came in with 14:15 left on the clock in the first half until there were just over 3:00 remaining in the game, and set a career-high in points.
"I told him when he came off the floor that he's just getting better every game," Kamp said of Kravish. "I talk to him a lot, and I just really like the way he plays. He plays so hard, and he's always trying to be in the right position and help his teammates out and he plays at the same pace, with that same motor, no matter what the score is and no matter what's going on, which is what I really like about him. That's why he's just going to continue to get better and I let him know that. He's just got to stay on the path he's on, and keep trying to improve, and he's going to help our team out a lot."
The 6-foot-9 true freshman was one of four Bears to score in double figures -- including Kamp, Gutierrez and starting point guard Brandon Smith -- while chipping in eight of Cal's 34 points in the paint.
"His touch looked pretty good," Kamp smiled. "Once he gets a little more muscle, he'll be stepping in on those instead of stepping away and kind of just jumping over people, I think."
Having other scoring options emerge on a night when sophomore wing Allen Crabbe shot just 2-for-12 from the field was a bittersweet proposition for Smith.
"I don't know if it was a good thing," said Smith, who shot 5-for-6 from the field and was one of four Bears to score in double digits. "I know Allen will bounce back. That'll be a very rare occasion to see Allen Crabbe play like this. He still contributed in other ways, besides shooting, but I'm looking forward to next game, because I know he's going to come out and play really well."
Smith scored 7 of his 11 points after halftime, and finished with a 5-of-6 shooting day to go along with three rebounds, two assists and two steals. In the first two games, Smith took eight combined shots.
"I came out tonight with the intention of being more aggressive in the offensive end, just to get going," Smith said. "It did help to knock down a couple, and I'm going to go into this next game with the same mindset. I think there's some times where I pass up shots, looking for other guys, but some of the coaches have challenged me to step up and knock them down."
Both of Smith's swipes led directly to scores. After Kravish scored an easy bucket on a pass from Smith down low, Smith came up with a steal on the other end of the floor on the ensuing Governors (0-2) possession and took it all the way for a coast-to-coast finish to give the Bears a 36-13 advantage.
Smith played the bulk of the minutes at the point and got into a good groove on both ends of the floor, dishing out two assists and not turning the ball over once, though, as a team, Cal (3-0) had 14 turnovers.
One of those turnovers occurred with just under five and a half minutes left in the first half, when Anthony Campbell and tried to force a pass underneath to Kamp, who was called for a charge as he tried to dish to Bak Bak.
"Brandon was good," Montgomery said. "There are still times, I think, when he, for example, he gave the ball to Harper and Harper charged. Well, he shouldn't have given the ball to Harper, and your point guard's got to recognize that. You can't put your teammates in jeopardy. You've got to see the whole floor. You've got to orchestrate the game. You're a quarterback on the floor, and you've got to see what you're doing and where everybody is and what's likely to happen. But, he did have a good game. He was better -- more aggressive -- offensively, he was good defensively and when you don't turn it over at the point guard position, that's good."
The Bears started the game on a 21-5 run, holding Austin Peay to just one field goal (1-for-13) during that span. The Governors didn't sink their next field goal until the 9:08 mark, going 9:32 without a basket. During that run, Austin Peay saw nine points scored off of their turnovers.
"I don't think shooting was the issue," said Governors head coach Dave Loos. "I think we were just overwhelmed early and then started playing too fast. We threw up anything; just happy to get a shot. You give them a lot of credit, but we played way too fast, early, and that resulted in poor quality shots, therefore, the poor shooting percentage."
Austin Peay sorely missed the services of concussed 6-foot-9 center John Fraley, shooting 3-for-12 in the paint in the first half.
"It always hurts our rebounding," Loos said of Fraley's absence. "He gets us a few points, down low, but just rebounding."
After finding themselves up by 27 at the half, concluding the first period with a thunderous dunk from sophomore Richard Solomon, the Bears saw their lead slowly whittled away in the second stanza.
"We've come out in the three games -- well, I shouldn't say that; the second game we weren't as good -- but we've come out with some energy and been pretty good defensively, and really taken people out of what they've wanted to do," Montgomery said. "I think, in fairness, we've probably been a little bit better than our opponents and our energy has allowed us to take them out and it's given us the opportunity to board the ball and run the break and given us a pretty good lead."
Austin Peay out-scored Cal 42-32 in the second half, following a 17.2 percent shooting performance by going 18-for-33 (54.5 percent) from the field after the break. While the Bears hit just 1-of-6 three-pointers in the first half, after the break, Cal went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Crabbe -- who scored 24 and 21 points in the first two games of the season and came in shooting 9-for-18 from three-point range -- finished with just five points, marking his lowest point total since he scored two points in Seattle against Washington on Feb. 10, 2011, the same game in which he suffered a concussion which forced him to miss the next two games.
"Allen's not going to have a game like that, there's no question," Montgomery said. "Jorge felt it early and the reason you have a team is that you go to the guy that you feel like has an advantage. Jorge was feeling it. We probably should have gone to him a little bit more. Harper was good, could have gone to him a little bit more. Allen was struggling. But, I don't know the next time that's going to happen. He's getting pretty good looks. He's a great shooter, so we're very confident that that's an aberration, but we do need him; there's no question about that."
With Crabbe in a deep freeze, the Governors were able to capitalize on the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year's misses, out-rebounding the Bears 18 to 13 after the break.
"The obvious concern is that in the second half, we're not quite -- which, I think, is probably human nature, you're up 27 -- that we don't have that same intensity," Montgomery said. "We've been a little bit lax. We've also substituted. You look at the numbers, and 25, 26, 27 minutes, that's kind of what we had intended to do, if possible, but we've got to get to where we can still get the same level of intensity coming off the bench."
Gutierrez and Kamp -- who's nine boards and five defensive rebounds tied him with Solomon for the game-highs in both categories -- combined to spend 30 minutes on the floor in the first half, but after the break, the pair played just 23 minutes, leading to some lapses in defense.
"Harper and Jorge are obviously our two best defenders, that kind of make that whole thing work," Montgomery said.
Gutierrez was a thorn in the side of Austin Peay star TyShwan Edmondson for the entire first half, limiting the All-Ohio Valley Conference first-teamer to 0-for-6 shooting. Edmondson -- who averaged 17.1 points per game last season -- didn't score his first basket until he hit a field goal with 15:43 left in the game
"Jorge was into him, as we would say," laughed Smith, before Kamp chipped in.
"As expected," smiled the 6-foot-8 senior.
"You didn't expect anything different from Jorge," Smith continued. "I always love when we prepare for a game and we're doing a scout and we see that the other team's best player is a shooting guard. I just smiled inside, because I'm like, 'You know what? Jorge is going to be guarding that guy, and that guy probably won't score tonight.' I love that. Tonight, when Edmondson [came out], I was like, 'Jorge, you've got him. This is going to be exciting.'"
In the second half, with Gutierrez spending nine minutes on the bench, Edmondson shot 2-for-4, as senior forward Melvin Baker took over, shooting 3-for-4 for eight points with three boards over the final 7:42.
"You saw a little glimpse of what Austin Peay can do," Montgomery said. "They're very athletic and have some people that can score the ball. I thought that Jorge did a nice job on Edmondson, kind of getting into his head a little bit early and not giving him anything, because he's very, very capable. But, at the same time, Melvin Baker -- who didn't play the first half -- came in the second half and was pretty good. We had a little trouble there."
As the Governors' shots began to fall, they began to be a bit more disruptive on defense, utilizing a full-court press beginning just four minutes into the second period.
"In the second half, they came out and had to step up their aggressiveness," Smith said. "They definitely had to bring something different, because in the first half, it wasn't working for them."
Nine of Cal's 14 turnovers came in the second half, as Austin Peay not only forced the issue in the backcourt, but also pressured the Bears into taking quick, poor shots on the offensive end.
With 8:31 left in the game, that press forced sophomore guard Justin Cobbs to fire a two-handed overhead pass three-quarters the length of the floor to Solomon, who had to reach up to snag the pass with one hand. Off-balance, Solomon tried to find Kravish on the other side of the post, but was picked off by Baker, who pushed the ball up the floor for a lay-up by Josh Terry.
On the ensuing Cal possession, Crabbe was flustered on the in-bounds by that pressure, and the Bears called a time out to regroup.
"We struggled for a quick second, and once we regrouped, we were able to attack it decisively," Smith said. "That's something that we also need to work on, as well. For other teams watching this, they're probably looking at it and saying, 'You know what? We should probably press these guys.' That's something that we'll probably be looking for in the future. I think we'll do a better job next time."
The Governors finished with five steals on the night, but the real damage done in the second half was to Cal's shot selection. The Bears shot 44.0 percent after halftime, following a 60.7 percent performance before going into the locker room.
"They're small and quick," Montgomery said. "We knew that going in. If you looked at them in warm-ups -- I think probably their heights were not even what they said they were listing them at -- they were lean, small, quicker athletes. We kind of looked in warm-ups and said, 'This is not a very big team.' They got up into us and we had different combinations of players in there, and mostly, I don't think we turned it over that much against pressure, as much as came down and took quick shots that we weren't making, which changed the tempo. It was a pressure, in terms of them speeding us up, but we did have other people in there, and we haven't spent a lot of time on press break and what we're trying to do in terms of where we are. For them, they were in kind of a no-lose situation. They had nothing to lose but to try to get after us, so I'm not too concerned about that."
-- Cal has had at least a 20-point lead at the half in all three of its games this year after leading Austin Peay, 40-13, at the break. The Bears were up 48-23 against UC Irvine last Friday, and 39-19 against George Washington on Tuesday.
-- In the first halves of games so far this season, Cal is shooting 47-for-82 (57.3 percent) and averaging 42.3 points per game in the opening 20 minutes.
-- The Bears improved to 23-2 in non-conference home games under Montgomery with the win.
-- Cobbs entered the game with Kravish with 14:15 left in the first half, and in his first seven minutes of action, notched four assists, a board and a block, before coming up lame with just over five minutes left in the half, right before Bak recorded his lone block of the night. Cobbs finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
6-foot-10 junior forward Robert Thurman did not play on Tuesday, and is questionable going into the final four round of the Progressive CBE Classic in Kansas City.
"We're not going to let him do anything until Saturday," Montgomery said. "We'll see then whether he's ready to go."