Facing a team that was considerably stronger than the opponent in their first exhibition game, the Cal Bears were too much for the Cal State University San Marcos Cougars at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night. The home team trailed briefly at 3-2, then rolled to a comfortable 74-52 victory in front of a sparse crowd.
Coach Cuanzo Martin got an extended look at the Bears' zone offense on this night, and the results were decent. Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird led a balanced attack with 13 points each, and Wallace had five assists and just one turnover. Sam Singer recorded six assists, and freshman Kingsley Okoroh came off the bench and blocked four shots.
The Bears shot 49.1% for the game (28 of 57), and made 35% from beyond the arc (7 of 20). They played with energy on the defensive end, and held the Cougars to 35.8% shooting for the game.
In the post game press conference Martin said, “They (CSUSM) came out and played zone the whole night pretty much, and I thought it was good for our guys, once we started to get in the flow just to go against the zone, a 3-2 zone.” The coach noted that they had worked on the zone offense, but against a 2-3 zone, so it took a while for the Bears to figure it out.
Wallace in particular did a good job penetrating the zone and making plays. Wallace said, “I think we weren't in a very good rhythm in the beginning of the game, we were kind of just standing around too much, but once we got used to it, we kind of got settled in.”
Martin demonstrated his Gene Keady roots by expressing his pleasure with the Bears' physical effort: “I thought it was important that we played physical, we carved out space on both sides of the ball.”
Despite being co-game high scorer, Bird described his play in the two exhibition games as “Average.”
He will need to raise his level of play going forward, but seemed confident that he will be able to do that.
Coach Martin used nine players until the last couple of minutes, and indicated that it will probably be that same nine-man rotation to start the season. Christian Behrens started for the second consecutive game, but was limited to 13 minutes due to foul trouble. Dwight Tarwater was the first man off the bench, and nailed a couple of three-point shots to go along with five rebounds.
With the exhibition games completed, the Bears can now focus on the start of the regular season. “I think we're ready, we're ready to start playing some basketball,” said Bird. “We've got a game next week and we're looking forward to it.”
That game will be against Alcorn State on Friday night, November 14th at Haas. It will be the first game of the 2K Classic which will conclude in New York at Madison Square Garden.
It's difficult to get a read on the Cal team this early in the season. They've had some good moments, but the competition has not yet been close to the Pac-12 level. That might first happen vs. Syracuse in New York.