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November 11, 2010

Freshman nets 22 in exhibition win

BERKELEY-It may have just been an exhibition against a Division II opponent, but even in a 106-76 drubbing of Sonoma State, the Cal basketball team proved three things: these Bears are very green, Allen Crabbe has the eye of a Marine sniper and Gary Franklin has indeed never met a shot he didn't like, including a 27-footer in the waning moments.

The headliner, of course, was Crabbe, who led all scorers with 22 points and missed just one shot all night, going 6-of-7 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, adding three boards and an assist.

"Allen is very capable," said head coach Mike Montgomery. "I thought that he had a really nice tip-in that looked like a really athletic move. He can shoot the ball, there's no question. In his mind, I think that he thinks he shouldn't ever miss, He's not going to miss a lot of free throws-he's a very good free throw shooter. He's pretty good from the floor, had that very nice tip-in. Allen needs to be reminded to play hard. He can be very smooth sometimes, but if you get on him a little bit, he'll pick it up."

Crabbe was one of four Bears to score in double figures, including Franklin (17 points, four assists), Jorge Gutierrez (11 points, 6 assists and 3 boards) and Harper Kamp (10 points, 2 assists, 7 boards).

"I think I did OK," Crabbe said of his first collegiate game in front of the home crowd. "I just did the things that they tell me to do: shoot the ball, attack the basket, attach the boards. I'm just doing what they tell me to do. I'm just trying to do my part. It felt good. We've been in practice so long, against each other, it finally felt good to play against some other people. It felt pretty good tonight."

Crabbe even got his first college dunk out of the way, hammering home a breakaway slam after an outlet pass following a lay-out steal by Markhuri Sanders-Frison with 12:33 left in the second half.

"I kind of hurt after that," Crabbe smiled. "My knee got messed up a little bit, but it felt good."

On the topic of knees, Cal fans got a bit of a scare early in the second half, when starting point guard Gutierrez left the game seeming to favor his right leg-the same leg that sustained a knee injury last season. Gutierrez came back to the bench after a short stint in the locker room, though, suffering only from a mild bout of cramping in his calf. He was healthy enough to re-enter, but his services weren't needed.

"He was alright," Montgomery said. "He had six assists in the first half and no turnovers. Thought he made some passes that were more difficult than they needed to be, but he got to the basket real well."

Instead, sophomore Brandon Smith handled point guard duties for the majority of the second half and deftly ran the offense, evenly distributing the ball to his scorers and providing a spark on defense.

"I thought Brandon Smith went in and did a really good job of running the club and getting aggressive, but everybody did in the second half," Montgomery said.

That defense, though, proved that it is indeed a work-in-progress, particularly in the first half, when the Bears let Ben Washington go off for 18 points and allowed 44 points in total.

"It was kind of awful," said Kamp. "Give credit to them; they came in ready to shoot. They played hard and they executed their offense really well, which gave us some trouble. As a whole, we need to be able to lock in on guys who are hot. I think Washington, in the first half, was tearing us up. We've got to be able to lock in on guys and recognize shooters and fight through screens. We were getting screened a little too easily, and they were doing a good job of getting open."

Franklin was given the task of defending Washington in the first half, and looked a bit overwhelmed, as the Seawolves point guard shot 6-for-6 from the floor, including 5-of-5 from three-point land.

"I thought the first half was pretty rugged," Montgomery said. "We just really didn't defend. We were passive. They shot the ball extremely well, I'll give them credit for that. They had a lot of guys-it wasn't just the perimeter guys-but to give them 44 points in a half and let Washington have 18 was a little bit discouraging.

"We had the wrong match-up defensively. Their two leading scorers were (Steven) Pratt and (Will) Olsem, and so we put Jorge on one of those kids and put Gary on Washington. That obviously wasn't a very good match-up. I think Jorge would have done a better job, but Gary's going to have to learn, so no time like the present."

The Bears made an adjustment at halftime and cut Sonoma State's shooting percentage from 46.9 to 32.1, holding Washington scoreless.

"We challenged them a little bit and did a much better job, but we just are learning how aggressive we have to be," Montgomery said. "They're tentative because they don't know what's happening, necessarily. I thought that Sonoma screened well and we didn't react well to screens. We were trying to defend the ball with our hands down and they jumped up and shot it over the top of us, so we needed to be a whole lot better defensively, and we were (in the second half)."

In the second half, Smith played an integral role on defense, picking up three defensive rebounds and one of his two steals, and effectively countered the Seawolves' full-court press.

"He played great," Kamp said. "When Jorge got hurt, it probably worried everybody. He's fine, but (Smith) came in and really just slowed the game down for us, I think. He facilitated everyone, he was able to slow us down and get us executing our offense. I think the way they were switching up their defenses and kind of pestering us, giving our guards some trouble, we couldn't get the ball up past half court very easily for a stretch there."

Kamp said that Smith-who rarely shot the ball last season-is much more confident this year, as evidenced by his eight points, four boards and three assists.

"His ankles are looking a little better," Kamp said. "He was having a little trouble with those last year, but he's great now. He's real calm with the ball, he's got a great handle and a great feel, so as long as he can keep doing that, Coach said after the game, he doesn't have to be a prolific scorer. There maybe nights when he has those games, but he was valuable to the team even without having to score a lot, and he did a great job tonight."

Smith proved adept at getting the ball to the team's young scorers, including Franklin, who went 3-for-10 from beyond the arc, and only seemed to really lock on in the final moments of the game. But, the same could really be said for many of the Cal freshmen.

"The two freshmen wings shot the ball well," Montgomery said. "I think, obviously, we're going to have to establish more of an inside game at some point in time. They protected themselves by doubling in the post, so we had a lot of wide-open looks in the three, and guys were not shy at taking them. We were 12-for-30, which translates to 36 points, which is pretty good off of 30 shots. It's better than a point per possession."

Guard Emerson Murray came out like a house on fire when he first saw the floor, but seemed to play just a step or two ahead of himself until his final chunk of minutes late in the game, when he went 2-for-3 from three-point land. At times, the athletic Canadian seemed to be everywhere at once, but that speed came at the price of precision in the early goings.

"He gets moving fast," Montgomery said. "That's kind of what he does. His tendancy is to just take off and go try to do whatever, and we need to get a pace where we can play at, where we're comfortable at. We had some good possessions where we really executed and came off, boom, and got really nice shots. We need to do more of that, obviously, but people are going to take us out of things and we're going to have to get the tail in motion. We need a lot of work on what our late-clock situations would be and what would be our best thing to do. We don't always want to have the point guard off pick-and-roll. That may not be what we're best at, but there's just a lot of stuff that's got to develop over time, so we'll just continue to work at it and try and find the things that we do best."

In the first half, Murray picked up a loose ball and went coast-to-coast, passing the ball off to sophomore Bak Bak down low for a miss before Richard Solomon scored the put-back. On the next play, Murray corralled an airball, sprinted to the other end but missed his three-point try. He followed his shot and wrestled the ball away on the ground to get a jump-ball.

"He'll play hard; Emerson will play hard," Montgomery said. "He's just not a tremendously experienced kid, in terms of the game, but he'll give you everything he has. He'll hustle and get balls and we've just got to bring him along, because he's going to have to help us."

Murray and the rest of the youngsters seemed to settle down a bit in the second half, as the Bears upped their shooting percentage from 46.9% to 55%. The freshmen went 14-for-23 (60.8%) after halftime, including a 6-for-10 performance from Franklin and a 3-for-5 half by Solomon.

"For what would pass as a crowd, playing in front of people, I know a lot of family came up to watch them, and I'm sure they were all trying to do the right things there, and that was probably some part of it," Montgomery said. "They need to settle in and just be aware of what's going on. Maybe a bigger, more boisterous crowd would pick them up and give them some more energy, I don't know. There probably were some nerves, for sure. A scrimmage doesn't give you that, and that's why you play the exhibition-to get out, theoretically, in a real game where it counts."

The 6-foot-9 Solomon had his moments, going 4-of-8 shooting for eight points, while pulling down four boards, blocking one shot and tallying a steal. Solomon even scored himself a slam dunk in the second half, after batting away a pass down low on the defensive end and taking the rock coast-to-coast. But, he looked quite tentative at times and unsure of just quite how big he is. Even on the dunk, Solomon was a bit hesitant to really hammer it home.

"Richard, for lack of a better term, is just inexperienced at doing things that need to be done," Montgomery said. "He's long, he doesn't know how to use his length yet. You've got to get him to shoot straight up over the top instead of down, because every time you come down you get a foul. He's going to need to work on his back-to-basket game a little bit more. He's going to have to start figuring out how to use his quickness to get to balls, and he can really run the floor. We should be able to out-run some bigs with him running the floor, if he will. He's just got a real big upside, but he's just got to stay with it."

Cal's other big man, the sophomore Bak, played 17 minutes, scored six points and pulled down six boards in his first action since early last season.

"Bak did a pretty good job," Montgomery said. "He seems to be in the right position most of the time, he's where he's supposed to be. He had a couple block-offs where they had to go over the top with the ball and they fouled him. He can shoot the ball a little bit. Bak's made progress. You've got to keep in mind that he didn't play at all in that second semester, so he's making some progress."

Down low, Kamp looked to have knocked off all of the rust from missing all of last season with his second knee surgery. With a new jersey number and a new lease on life, Kamp provided a steady presence in the post and a go-to hand when things got hairy for his younger teammates.

"I felt good. I didn't really feel like I'd lost much. The practices and things have helped me for some reason just keep my feel for the game. I felt like I hadn't really been out that long," said Kamp, who played 19 minutes. "(The freshmen) played fantastic tonight. I was real proud of them. They came out and Al wasn't hesitant with his shot, they had a lot of confidence in their jump shots. Our offense is designed to get good shooters open jump shots so that was a plus for them tonight."

Montgomery stopped well short of giving the team a passing grade in its final tune-up before the season-opener on Nov. 16 against Cal State Northridge.

"We've just got a long ways to go," Montgomery said. "We played 12 guys-11 guys in double-figure minutes-just to get some guys some experience and get out on the floor, and maybe that breaks you up a little bit, continuity-wise, but we've got to find some guys and get them ready.

"I'm trying to get them to be a little more aggressive. The same thing happened in our scrimmage situation (against St. Mary's), where we kind of went out and let people kind of just do what they wanted to do, and we've got to get out and I think it's just young people feeling their way, trying to figure out what does this guy do, I don't want to get beat at the point of attack, so they're playing off a little bit. We've got to get our help situation squared away a little bit better, we've got to get a little more aggressive on the ball with pressure. Our inside guys will take care of themselves, I think, basically. They're going to have some tough times with some bigger people, but they can handle themselves."



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