The California Golden Bears are going to be a work in progress all season, and their season opener against the Matadors proved they have a long way to go.
Cal St. Northridge traded baskets and took advantage of weak defense by Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin to nail a bunch of threes and open jumpers (Crabbe’s assignment scored at least 21 points) and give the Matadors a slim lead a halftime. Cal didn’t have too much trouble running their offense and pulled, as Jorge Gutierrez (18 points, 8 assists), Harper Kamp (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Markhuri Sanders-Frison (15 points, 10 rebounds) led the way.
Despite a pressing strategy by Northridge to force turnovers, that also led to more fouls, and more foul trouble for CSN, and similarly more free throws for Cal. The Golden Bears shot 31 for 50; if they had been able to hit a few more they would’ve been able to create more distance between them and the Matadors.
Well, we said that this year’s offense would be a weird mix of sweet three’s and ugly hustle plays. Tonight was more of the ugly grit-it-out vintage. There isn’t much outside shooting to speak of. But, it’s a W. The pessimist Old Blue in me says that this reminds me of the game against Cal Poly with Leon Powe, Dominic McGuire, Ubaka, and Kately – we had superior athletes, but they actually knew how to play ball.
We continue to have struggles with dribble penetration and fighting through screens have let CSN light it up from the outside. It’s still concerning how we consistently let a guy or guys get hot from deep. I really like how even with our backups in, we don’t see any of the “pass the ball around the perimeter, then hoist it up at the end” offense. Guys have an idea of what they want to do. It doesn’t always work that way, but the ball movement and passing continue to improve.