TALK ABOUT THE GAME ON OUR BOARDS
For much of the 2012-13 season, the California Golden Bears have gone only as far as their two stars -- junior guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs -- have taken them. And for much of the 2012-13 season, Cobbs and Crabbe have struggled to maintain production, due to an increased workload as a result of decreased depth.
That season storyline seemed remarkably similar to Saturday's game. For much of Saturday's match against No. 10 Oregon, Cobbs and Crabbe struggled in producing points -- as did the rest of their teammates.
Yet, unlike games earlier this season which started in a similar fashion, the Bears kept fighting. Against the Ducks, Cal seemed to have turned that corner. Despite poor shooting and decreased depth, the Bears hung with Oregon by pressuring the ball on defense and grabbing rebounds. And when it came time to win the game, Cal's duo game through.
After Oregon forward Tony Woods's jumper with 4:03 left, the Bears found themselves down 54-48. From there, it was time for Cobbs and Crabbe to -- perhaps -- change the course of their season, and lead their team to victory in crunch time.
And boy, did they respond.
Following two free throws by Richard Solomon to bring Cal to within four, Cobbs began to make his mark by forcing a wild three-point miss from wounded guard Johnathan Loyd (wrist). On Cal's next possession, Cobbs beat his man to earn an offensive rebound. In one swift motion, Cobbs grabbed the rebound, threw the ball back in, up off the glass while getting hacked, and hit the floor hard. Hustle has always been there, but Cobbs offensive rebound and put-back brought the gold-out crowd of 9,457 to their feet and, more importantly, brought the Bears to within two.
On Oregon's next possession, freshman guard Tyrone Wallace forced a crucial steal, directly leading to a Crabbe fast-break layup on an eagle-eye pass from Cobbs. Behind their two junior guards (and a key swipe from their freshman teammate), the Bears had tied the game at 54.
In what has become a theme this season, Crabbe continued to struggle with his jump shot against Oregon. Yet, with a few key dunks to keep his scoring going, Crabbe found a way to make a mark on defense. His primary matchup was Duck sharpshooter E.J. Singler, who labored to seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. One of those misses was a key three-point miss with 2:00 left, as he was pestered by Crabbe's defense. The Bears, as a result, had the ball, with the game tied at 54.
On Cal's next possession, Cobbs finally came through -- a 13-foot jumper from the left baseline -- off of an assist by Crabbe. The Bears had finally taken the lead with 1:36 left.
From that point on, Cal relied on defense to hold the lead, as Singler's last three-point attempt hit the front iron, and a key jump ball by forward David Kravish awarded Cal possession with 3.9 seconds left. With the Bears up by two, Cobbs iced the game by hitting both free throws on a one-and-one.
Behind Cobbs and Crabbe, Cal went on a 10-0 run to close the game and secure its first win over a top-10 team since Jan. 31, 2008, and first win over a top-10 team at home since 2006. Over that 10-0 run, Cobbs and Crabbe combined to go 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-3 from the free throw line, get wto assists, and be on the defensive end of three key missed three-point shots.
The game did not play as smoothly for the duo as it did for the last four minutes, though. In the first half, Cobbs and Crabbe combined to go 3-for-7 with five turnovers; the three field goals consisting of two dunks and a layup by Crabbe, all on the fast break. In the first 20 minutes, Crabbe and Cobbs combined to take only three jump shots as they struggled to find looks on the floor. Unsurprisingly, the Bears offense stalled in a similar manner, as they labored to a 10-for-32 first half shooting performance (31.3%) and 24 total points.
The beginning of the second half did not start as prettily for Cal's duo, either. Crabbe started the second half on 1-for-4 shooting, including a couple of ill-advised treys, which were off of the mark. Cobbs similarly missed his first two shots of the second half. That, along with 3 more combined turnovers, allowed Oregon to climb to a 50-42 lead with 6:38 left.
From that point on, Cobbs and Crabbe dominated. After starting the game a combined 5-for-14 from the field, the pair finished the game hitting their last four shots.
The road does not get any easier for Cal, with a trip to the Arizona schools next week, during which guard Jeff Powers should be available after suffering a bone bruise (according to Brandon Smith) on Thursday against Oregon State. While Cal's season is still on life support, at least the Bears have a marquee win to put on their resume, with a golden chance to add to it -- and get back to the front of the conference race -- next week.
To do that, Cal will continue to rely on their dynamic duo. To actually get back into the Pac-12 race, the Bears will need those two to maintain that defensive intensity and hit shots with the game on the line.
But hey, if they can pull it off, then the season narrative rapidly changes frof how Cal hit the wall, to one where they hit that wall, yet got back up and still managed to find ways to win games.
And this win over Oregon may be what shifts that narrative.
ANALYSIS: The Dynamic Duo
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