The 7-foot transfer from Fresno State was averaging 10.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in nearly 25 minutes a contest for the Huskies. Averaging an astounding 4.4 blocks per game, Upshaw is one of the most talented rim protectors in the nation and is a major defensive loss for the Huskies.
Without Upshaw on the team, Washington (14-5, 3-4 Pac-12) is likely an NIT team as they’ve struggled in Pac-12 play so far. Upshaw’s loss leaves an already thin front court without its most talented big man and the junior was also shooting 59 percent from the field.
This might be the last time we hear from Robert Upshaw in college basketball. The 7-footer has an elite skill that NBA teams covet as a shot blocker and Draft Express currently has him as the No. 19 pick in the first round of their 2015 mock draft. A second dismissal from a team might significantly hurt Upshaw’s NBA Draft stock but there is no doubting his talent and upside as an interior defender.
Entering halftime, Tyrone Wallace was 2-of-13 from the field, as a team Cal was shooting 32 percent while its defense allowed No. 21 Washington to convert of 54 percent of its attempts. Given all that, the Golden Bears should have considered themselves lucky to only trail by five.
In the second half, the shots still didn’t fall for Wallace, though, they didn’t have to. Jordan Mathews and David Kravish carried the load offensive, combining for 52 points — 34 of which came after halftime — as Cal kicked off Pac-12 play with an 81-75 win over the ranked Huskies.
Mathews was one-point shy of matching his career-high of 32 points. Kravish set his own career best with 21. Although Wallace was his season-worst 4-for-20 from the field, he still managed to finish with 19 points, doing the bulk of his damage from the line, hitting 10 free throws with under three minutes to play.
Nigel Williams-Goss had 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assist for the Huskies, followed by Robert Upshaw with 16 points and eight boards.
The Golden Bears shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, and for the night only coughed up the ball four times. The Huskies committed 13 turnovers, which Cal took advantage, turning those miscues into 15 points. In Washington’s upset loss to Stony Brook at home on Sunday, the Seawolves created 19 points off 12 turnovers to help erase a double-digit deficit.
Another area where Cal took advantage of was on the glass. Despite being outrebounded 33-21, the Golden Bears turned eight offensive rebounds in 13 second-chance boards.
If you’re Cuonzo Martin, you have to feel encouraged after your first Pac-12 game. Wallace had a terrible night shooting the ball, but still contributed offensively, Cal’s second-best scorer, Jabari Bird, is still sidelined and the Golden Bears were still able to get a win over a ranked opponent.
Washington, however, has a short turnaround before another challenging, conference road game. The Huskies are at Stanford on Sunday night.
Ty Wallace, Cal: I’m firmly entrenched on the Ty Wallace bandwagon, having said repeatedly that there is no player in the country as underrated as Cal’s star point guard. Look at this stat line: 19.3 points, 8.8 boards, 4.2 assists and 46.9 percent shooting from three.
Justin Anderson, Virginia: Anderson’s emergence into Virginia’s leading scorer has been the biggest surprise of the season for me. Always known as a great athlete and teammate, Anderson is now averaging 15.1 points and shooting 60.0 percent from three. He’s not a go-to guy, but he’s been Tony Bennett’s most valuable weapon thus far.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Cauley-Stein is starting to live up to his potential this season, becoming the nation’s most versatile defender while anchoring on college basketball’s best defense. A 7-foot-1 center, he can switch ball-screens and has been tasked with stopping an opponent’s best wing scorer at times this season.
Robert Upshaw, Washington: Washington’s emergence as a top three team in the Pac-12 can almost entirely be credited to Upshaw, who has become the nation’s premiere shot-blocking presence. He’s averaging 4.6 blocks in just 20 minutes and has completely changed the way that Washington is able to defend. I’d argue he’s one of the ten most valuable players in the country right now.
Christian Wood, UNLV: Wood is playing like a first round draft pick, averaging 13.9 points, 9.6 boards and 3.0 blocks for the Rebels. He had 24 points and 10 boards in UNLV’s win over No. 3 Arizona on Tuesday night.
Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier has done much of what was expected of him this season. His scoring is up to 16.5 points from 7.0 as a freshman, and while he’s not shooting quite as well from the perimeter this season, his percentages are up overhaul and he’s turned into one of the nation’s best, and most important, secondary options.
Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse: Someone had to become a scorer for Syracuse this season, and thus far in the year it’s been the senior big man that’s done it. He’s averaging 16.5 points and 8.7 boards, a bright spot in an otherwise frustrating season for the Orange.
Zach Auguste, Notre Dame: Auguste has always had the potential to be a big-time scorer in the paint for the Irish, and he’s finally reaching it this year. Auguste’s averaging 14.8 points through the first month, although it will be interesting to see what happens when the Irish start to play some tougher competition.
Levi Randolph, Alabama: Randolph has become a go-to guy for Alabama as a senior, as he’s now posting some impressive numbers: 16.5 points, 4.9 boards and 3.1 assists for the 8-3 Tide.
Dylan Ennis, Villanova: Who saw this coming from Ennis? He’s Villanova’s leading scorer, their most dangerous three-point shooter and one of the best defenders on the roster.
Stefan Nastic, Stanford: With so much of Stanford’s front line graduating, Nastic’s role has been dramatically increased this year, and it’s paying off. Nastic is averaging 14.5 points and has become one of the better low-post scorers on the west coast.
Justin Moss, Buffalo: As a sophomore, Moss averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 boards playing behind Javon McCrea. As a junior, those numbers have bumped up to 17.3 points and 10.2 boards. Oh, and he did this.
Malcolm Hill, Illinois: Hill started a handful of games as a freshman, but as a sophomore he’s moved into a major role for John Groce. His scoring has bumped up to 12.8 points this year, as the Illini look like they could contend for a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt: Jones has developed into the star we expected him to be as a sophomore, averaging 16.5 points and 7.1 boards.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Spartans have been a disappointment through the season’s first month, but Valentine has been terrific. These numbers are nothing to joke about: 14.5 points, 5.5 boards, 4.3 assists, 50.0 percent from three.