While we could lament the fact that Cal didn't win by 30 and nearly frittered away a large lead, we can also note that early last year head coach Ben Braun was experimenting with line-ups and combinations - how best to use Jamal Sampson and Solomon Hughes, finding how much would A.J. Diggs be able to contribute, and working in Amit Tamir into a lineup that was fairly successful with a point guard, three out of Shipp, Brian Wethers, Dennis Gates and Ryan Forehan-Kelly, and a center. And in the end, it all worked out.
Early this year, the issues to be resolved are similar - how to determine the best mix of Diggs and Midgley; is it possible to consistently get 20 to 25 good minutes out of Gabe Hughes, David Paris and Rod Benson; can Erik Bond be comfortable with guard responsibilities. Three games into the season, no ready answer appears for any of those matters - so it will take more games against other teams, good and bad, teams before we have an idea.
Both Shipp and Wethers had outstanding games in the plus-minus department with Shipp ending up with a +19 and Wethers finishing with a +14. With either player out of the game, Cal's production suffered significantly. Both Midgley and Famulener had strong games coming off the bench with a combined +12 in 40 minutes of play. The game's oddest line game from Hughes, who was a +15 in the first half, -14 in the second, and finished at +1.
Did anyone notice that Rod Benson is no longer jumping to block shots? The coaching staff now has him planted to the ground while he holds his arms straight up in the air. While this may keep his block total down this year, it'll keep him from drawing cheap fouls, and keep him in position to draw charges as he did on Tuesday night. That won't stop me from shuddering though, when his narrow frame hits the ground.
PLUS/MINUS vs. Howard
|A J Diggs||25||50||42||+8|
First vs. Second Half
First Half Top - Joe Shipp -- 40-19, +21
Second Half Top - Richard Midgley - 27-22, +5
First Half Bottom - David Paris - 5-7, -2
Second Half Bottom - Gabriel Hughes - 0-14, -14
Difference Makers of the Game
With Joe Shipp in 37 minutes, 77-58, +19
Without Joe Shipp in 3 minutes, 3-12, -9
With Brian Wethers in 33 minutes, 68-54, +14
Without Brian Wethers in 7 minutes, 12-16, -4
The starting lineup went a +11 in nearly 12 minutes of the first half, but a -9 in about four minutes in the second half.
Diggs, Wethers, Shipp, Tamir,G. Hughes in 15 minutes - 26-24, +2
All other combinations in 25 minutes - 54-46, +8
But in the first half, one group of players had totals of +16, +15, +14, + 21, and +14, while the other group had numbers of +1, +2, -1, +5 and -2. The first group consisted of all five Cal starters, while the second group consisted of the reserves. Even taking into consideration that the starters played more minutes than the backups, the drop-off is fairly significant.
At some point, Cal went with a line-up featuring Midgley, Bond, Shipp, Famulener, and Tamir which has to be one of the bigger lineups that they've gone with in recent years. This line-up went 3-2 in a little over a minute. Tamir was then replaced by Paris, and later Shipp was replaced by Wethers and this line-up eventually went 5-7.
Double Point Guards
Coach Ben Braun didn't use the combination of A.J. Diggs and Richard Midgley in the first half. In the second half, the two were on-court together for 4 1/2 minutes and were a -3. Because both guards had four fouls late in the second half, Braun had to use a lineup without either one of them - something he'd probably prefer to do only in very lopsided games. An area of greater concern is that even with both guards in the game in the second half, Howard was able to press Cal successfully and force numerous turnovers.
With Diggs and Midgley in 4 1/2 minutes, 9-12, -3
With all other combinations in 35 1/2 minutes, 71-58, +13