Lack of depth will catch up to Crabbe, Cal

Commentary: Allen Crabbe delivers a sensational performance in the loss to UCLA, but lack of depth exacerbates the toll it takes on junior guard.



WESTWOOD, Calif. – Allen Crabbe played 39 minutes in California's Pac-12 conference opening 79-65 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday.

The problem is with the Golden Bears trying to rally back most of the way, eventually cutting the margin to four at 61-57 with 6:32 left to play thanks largely to the efforts of the junior guard, those 39 minutes seemed more like 139 minutes.

That's going to catch up to Crabbe, and head coach Mike Montgomery knows it.

"You're right, there," Montgomery said. "We don't have anybody though."

He's right too, with Brandon Smith still dealing with concussion symptoms, and Christian Behrens out for the season with torn knee ligaments. Ricky Kreklow offered nine minutes off the bench when his surgically repaired right foot was stepped on and spending the rest of the game on the bench icing it down.

Jeff Powers, who came into the game having played 44 minutes this season, was pressed into duty for seven minutes.

Cal doesn't have options. Even trying to give Crabbe a break during practice is a non-starter. "I have four guards total for six spots, so I don't have enough people to practice," Montgomery said.

And so the team ran out of gas, watching UCLA close the night on an 18-8 run. But that fatigue showed up in other places, notably on defense.

Players didn't close out to the three-point line, as UCLA got nine outstanding looks from behind the arc in the first half. They only hit three, otherwise a 10-point deficit could have been twice as much.

"I think that when we get tired we sometimes take the easy way out rather than run back and do what we were supposed," Montgomery said.

"Sometimes we get caught up, sometimes we aren't paying attention," Crabbe said. "I guess you could just say the mental lapses we have sometime, we're not fully focused on our defense, and they get open looks."

UCLA also got opportunistic buckets simply through effort at key moments, while Cal had just 10 second-chance points off a staggering 20 offensive rebounds.

"They were aggressive the whole time. We didn't really have any energy," Crabbe said. "They made plays. They made stops. They capitalized on our mistakes."

Despite all those issues, a sensational effort from Crabbe almost made up for it. He scored a game-high 21 points, exploding in the second half for 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Crabbe found a way to match the UCLA fury, driving to the basket again and again.

"I just felt like I was being a little tentative in the first half," Crabbe said. "I got to the basket a couple times in the first half, but it seemed like I stopped doing it because I was getting tired. I got to remember to be aggressive all 40 minutes or while I'm on the court."

But then he gets tired. And there is no help coming.

It trickles down to the rest of the team. Justin Cobbs, a meager 6-of-18 shooting for 12 points, can't work off the screens or in transition when Smith isn't available to handle the ball some of the time. The big men get antsy and fumble the ball away or miss easy shots.

That forces Crabbe to be the dominant player on the court all the time, every time. Eventually he will wear down, taking whatever NCAA tournament or Pac-12 title aspirations Cal has down for good.

"I'm not going to use that as an excuse," Crabbe said. "The coaches are expecting me to play big minutes big games like this, so I just have to find ways to push through it. Being on the court, that's what I want to do.

"I want to help my team win."

Crabbe can and will deliver on that statement. But he needs help too.

Dan Greenspan writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.


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