Cal may not play back-to-back games all season against two bigger and more physical teams than Syracuse and Ohio State, the Bears' opponents last week at Madison Square Garden.
Thus, the arrival of Jacksonville, tonight's opponent at Haas Pavilion, will be a welcome change. The Bears had nine shots blocked by the Orange, then 11 swatted by the Buckeyes in losses at the Coaches vs. Cancer classic. The record book shows Cal hadn't had 20 shots blocked in consecutive games in at least 20 years.
The Dolphins, with no starter taller than 6-foot-6, are not shot-blocking monsters. Cal coach Mike Montgomery described them as "small, quick, athletic, real good at the point of attack."
So the blocked shot should not be a problem for Cal. Not that Montgomery isn't thinking about it.
"We have to do a better job of our interior passing. I think we have to be stronger taking the ball to the basket, so maybe there's contact and we get to the foul line," Montgomery said. "But we're undersized, and they were big."
The problem with many of the rejected shots against Syracuse and Ohio State was that they led to transition opportunities at the other end.
"Those are four-point swings, and that's really hard on you," Montgomery said.
Senior forward Jamal Boykin said "guys stayed aggressive, and that's why they blocked so many shots."
Boykin said the Bears ran through drills in practice Monday designed specifically to address the problem, with 7-2 Max Zhang and 6-10 walk-on Robert Thurman providing the defense.
"It's all about positioning," Boykin said. "Drawing contact and trying to draw fouls is important, and shot fakes to try to freeze the man before you go up."