Three minutes into the second half on Tuesday night, the Cal men’s basketball team found itself in a two-possession game with Pepperdine.
The Waves were on a 7-0 stretch that saw the Bears playing sloppy offense and missing assignments on defense.
That’s when Allen Crabbe came to Cal’s rescue. The junior swingman scored 24 of his career-high 33 points in the period to fuel the Bears’ 79-62 triumph over Pepperdine at Haas Pavilion.
“Obviously Crabbe, he is a pro,” said Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson. “He will be making a lot of money next year. Sorry for Cal fans, but he is going to be making a lot of money.”
On Tuesday night, Crabbe was money.
There were dunks, slashes, jumpers and more than a few swishes. Whereas last year, when Crabbe might mentally take himself out of games after a poor half, the upperclassman played his best after missing five of his first six shots.
“I told myself this year that I can’t left my offensive game affect the way I play the whole game,” Crabbe said. “I just felt I was blessed with the ability to shoot the ball. When I get those opportunities, I can’t pass them up.”
Still, Crabbe’s point total — and Cal’s margin of victory — belied a resilient performance by the Waves. Crabbe hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half, but both times a Pepperdine player matched him.
Despite giving up size at nearly every position, the Waves (0-2) had just five fewer rebounds than the Bears. And Cal’s defensive rebounding woes continued in the first half, as Pepperdine snagged eight offensive boards. In the final 20 minutes, however, the Waves had just four.
The Bears (2-0) received a boost off the bench in the form of 6-foot-6 swingman Ricky Kreklow. The sophomore transfer from Missouri, in his first game back from foot surgery, scored only three points in 23 minutes, but his Cal debut was defined more by his hustle.
He dove for loose balls and soared for rebounds. Late in the first half, he pulled down a board, dribbled up court and found Crabbe for a 3-pointer, part of the Bears’ 7-0 run to end the half.
“He just gives you a dimension that really helps us, because he is so active,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “He created a lot of possessions for us. He isn’t afraid to go on the floor, he’s not afraid to go after the ball.”
Despite his 1-for-4 rate from behind the arc, which could be attributed to rust, Kreklow might be the kind of player to fit the mold of the third option that Cal desperately needs. The Bears’ next leading scorer after Crabbe and Cobbs, who tallied 23, was Richard Solomon. The junior forward scored six points on six shots, while fellow big man David Kravish missed all seven of his shots.
With Kreklow healthy and in the rotation, Montgomery suggested that he may go with a four-guard lineup given Cal’s newfound depth at the wing and struggles in the post.
“Right now our bigs are not producing at a level that’s satisfactory,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got to get our bigs to finish around the basket better.”
Jonathan Kuperberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]