McNeese St.-California Preview
A lopsided win gave California some of its confidence back, but it may have to wait until the weekend to measure itself again.
The 24th-ranked Golden Bears will be favored to improve to 5-0 at home when they take on McNeese State on Monday night.
California (5-1) suffered its first loss Tuesday, 92-53 to then-No. 21 Missouri in the CBE Classic championship. The Golden Bears bounced back Saturday with an 80-59 home win over Denver.
"We all were just frustrated and couldn't believe it happened," guard Justin Cobbs said of the blowout loss. "The next day, it felt like something was wrong, we kind of got embarrassed out there."
After building a 16-point halftime lead and cruising past the overmatched Pioneers, the Golden Bears still were talking about what happened against the Tigers.
"It just kind of spun out of control on us," coach Mike Montgomery said. "It could have affected our confidence. We're obviously better at home. This was very necessary for us at this point."
The Golden Bears' average victory margin at home is 21.5 points.
Leading scorer Allen Crabbe bounced back from a six-point effort against the Tigers with 26 on Saturday. Cal's other star, Jorge Gutierrez, has turned in consecutive 11-point efforts.
Montgomery knows he needs his stars to play well for his team to succeed.
"If Allen doesn't make shots and if Jorge doesn't do his thing, then we're not going to be as good of a basketball team," Montgomery said.
California will be expected to have little trouble in its first matchup against McNeese State (3-2), but this contest will serve as a tuneup for Sunday's trip to face 7-1 San Diego State.
Getting consistent play from Cobbs will be important to how Cal fares this season. Cobbs is Cal's third-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game despite coming off the bench, and he made all four 3-pointers en route to scoring a career-high 22 points Saturday.
"I want to be out there with the team and help us win," Cobbs said. "Like I said before the season started, anything I can do to help the team, I'm down to do. It's just a process of figuring out my role and to just keep playing hard."
McNeese State is considered one of the favorites to win the Southland Conference's East Division. The Cowboys ended a run of four straight losing seasons by going 21-12 in 2010-11 and losing to Boston College in the NIT.
Patrick Richard was the star of that team, and he's back for his senior season. Richard scored 19 points to lead McNeese State to a 68-63 victory at Sacramento State on Saturday to open this three-game road trip.
The Cowboys rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit thanks to 62.1 percent shooting after the break.
"Patrick wouldn't let us lose," coach Dave Simmons told McNeese State's official website. "He took the lead and showed us the way. This was a good identity win for us."
McNeese State isn't much of a threat from beyond the arc, shooting 24.5 percent. Cal is limiting foes to 30.8 percent on 3s.