Pac-12 Game Of The Week: California @ UNLVPosted by Connor Pelton on December 23rd, 2011
It’s not often you get a game of this magnitude on the day before Christmas Eve, but there is definitely one this afternoon in Vegas. California came into the season as one of the favorites in the Pac-12, and they lived up to those expectations in their first four games. However, things would turn sour when they faced Missouri in a virtual home game for the Tigers. Missouri blitzed the Golden Bears from the tip and would eventually win by 39, meaning Cal would drop from national relevance for the next few weeks. They have responded well since the devastating loss, with their only other slip-up coming in a one-point heartbreaker at San Diego State. Now they come to a crossroads in a pre-Christmas game just off the Vegas Strip. A win would mean an 11-2 record going into Pac-12 play, and most importantly, getting back onto the national radar. But a loss will just reaffirm the thoughts that most people around the country have about the Golden Bears; as a one-and-done type team that just can’t win the big game.
If the Golden Bears are to win this one they will need to contain UNLV big men Chace Stanback and Mike Moser. Stanback is the leader of this team, both on the court and in most statistical categories. The thing about Stanback is, he just finds a way to get it done in big games. Chace had 28 points against #1 North Carolina, 19 against UC Santa Barbara, and 16 against #16 Wisconsin. Cal Forward Harper Kamp will get the honor of keeping him in check.
Perhaps even tougher to defend will be Moser. The scary thing about Mike is that when Stanback is having an off-night, he always turns it up a notch. Moser is averaging 13.6 PPG, but take a look at his performances when Stanbeck scores in single digits: 14 points, eight rebounds against Cal Poly, six points, 11 rebounds against UTEP, and 17 points, 11 rebounds against #19 Illinois. With Cal’s arguably best defender taking Stanback, look for seldom-used freshman David Kravish to see an increase from his usual 20-25 minutes. If both Kamp and Kravish hold the Rebels two main offensive sources to single digits, the Golden Bears have a great shot of getting the win. While this is a deep, talented team, the Rebels have relied on the Stanback-Moser combo a little too much, and that’s going to hurt them sooner or later.
In addition to stopping Stanback and Moser, the Bears want to follow Wisconsin’s blueprint of using all 35 seconds while on offense. The Rebels love to run (no pun intended) and get as many transition points as possible, so slowing down the game really frustrates them. Wisconsin did this and only gave up 51 points, 26.9 fewer than their season average. On the offensive side of the ball, California has to have a great afternoon shooting, especially from behind the arc. That means a big game from guards Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe will be desperately needed for Cal to stay in it.
So to wrap it up, the big key is the pace of the game. If UNLV is getting in transition and Stanback is shooting the lights out of the Thomas and Mack Center, it will be a long day for the Golden Bears. But if Cal slows the game down, keeps the scoring at a maximum of 60-65, and contains Stanback and Moser down low, Cal will be one of the nation’s most talked about teams over Christmas weekend. It doesn’t sound easy, and it’s not going to be, but that’s what happens when you face a team of UNLV’s caliber on the road.