montgomery

Health’s a concern for California following their loss at Creighton

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With Ricky Kreklow out after breaking his right hand California entered Sunday night’s game at Creighton shorthanded, and things would get even worse in their 68-54 loss to the Bluejays. Late in the first half freshman Jabari Bird, who moved back into the starting lineup in place of Kreklow, went down with a right ankle injury and did not return. Without those two perimeter options the game became a struggle for the Golden Bears offensively, as they shot 36.4% from the field and 5-for-24 from beyond the arc.

Now Creighton certainly deserves credit for this, as their work defensively in the half-court and on the boards made life difficult for Cal. Greg McDermott’s team not only posted its best points allowed per possession number since their win over Arizona State on Sunday night, allowing Cal to score just 0.87 points/possession, but they also completed many of those defensive possessions as they rebounded 76.3% of Cal’s missed shots.

Creighton’s defense helped them navigate a slow start offensively, and by the end of the game Doug McDermott tallied a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Austin Chatman (11 points) and Grant Gibbs (ten) reached double figures as well.

As for California the offensive struggles reveal the fact that for all the talent at Mike Montgomery’s disposal, this team is still a work in progress due to the youth of many of those pieces. And if injuries become a major issue the process becomes even more difficult. Guards Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace combined to score 25 points, but they did so shooting 8-for-23 from the field.

It can also be argued that senior center Richard Solomon (six points on 2-for-3 shooting) didn’t get enough quality looks inside, and Cal needs offensive balance in order to be at their best. David Kravish can provide offense as well for the Golden Bears, and this tandem will be need to be productive consistently when Pac-12 play begins.

While Sunday’s result certainly represents a missed opportunity for Cal from a resume standpoint given their losses to Dayton, Syracuse and UCSB, with their “best” win coming against Arkansas, the bigger concern is this team’s health. Kreklow’s going to be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, and that was known entering the game. But if they lose Bird as well, the growth of the other freshmen and Cal’s interior play become even more important.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: