Cal's first test an abject failure

Everything that can go wrong for California does in a 25-point pummeling at Wisconsin, the Golden Bears' first loss of the season.

Despite a 6-0 start, California head coach Mike Montgomery said that the true measure of how good the Golden Bears might be would come during the next three weeks with games at Wisconsin and against UNLV and Creighton.

Based on those criteria, Cal isn't that good, getting absolutely pasted by the Badgers, 81-56, Sunday afternoon at the Kohl Center in that first test.

Their first loss of the season was eerily reminiscent to the pre-Christmas pummeling they took against the Rebels in Las Vegas last season, but even then it could be excused in part as the team was devastated by the flu.

This time around, there were no such excuses as each of Cal's concerns and weaknesses were exposed. Overly reliant on the one-two scoring punch of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, the former Minnesota guard was never able to get in a groove, as Cobbs scored just 11 points while committing a team-high seven turnovers.

There wasn't any help from the frontcourt, as forwards Richard Solomon, David Kravish, and Robert Thurman combined for 13 points, making 6-of-14 shots from the field. The trio also struggled to protect the defensive glass, as Wisconsin (4-4) turned 12 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points.

Again missing redshirt sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow (foot), Cal got little production off the bench, as Wisconsin freshman forward Sam Dekker matched their 10 points by himself.

They didn't show the poise necessary to break momentum-feeding runs of 14-0 and 12-0 in the first half, nor a backbreaking 11-0 spurt in the second half. They were forced into 23 turnovers, while Wisconsin nearly doubled its average steals output with 16.

Really, the only Cal player that showed up was Crabbe, and even he only barely escaped major disaster after rolling his ankle in the closing seconds of the first half. The junior was able to play all but one minute after the break, finishing with a game-high 25 points, adding a team-high seven rebounds, while his three assists matched freshman Tyrone Wallace, as they accounted for all but one of Cal's dimes.

But is it time to panic? Certainly not.

Aside from Arizona, the rest of the Pac-12 doesn't look all that much improved from the last few seasons, with UCLA, picked to finish second by the media, seemingly on the verge of implosion.

The return of Kreklow would add some much-needed intensity on defense and unselfishness of offense. Wallace is coming along nicely and also finds ways to fill the stat sheet off the bench.

Cal certainly didn't bring the kind of defensive effort necessary on the road.

The major concern will be whether this team has the offensive firepower necessary, especially when Crabbe, Cobbs, or both have off shooting nights. The big men seem physically incapable of finishing at the rim, so it wouldn't be a shock if Montgomery went to a four-guard lineup with Wallace and Kreklow.

And if Cal comes through will dominant wins back at Haas Pavilion against UNLV and Creighton, maybe the trip to Madison will have been the turning point to the season.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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