Kreklow gives Cal a lift in Berkeley debut

Ricky Kreklow (US Presswire)

Redshirt sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow gives California a spark in his debut, helping move the ball and create extra possessions in a 79-62 win over Pepperdine.

BERKELEY, Calif. – It was a virtual replay of California's season-opener, both good and bad in a 79-62 win over Pepperdine.

Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs delivered the scoring punch – Crabbe overcoming a slow start to post a career-high 33 points – but the Golden Bears (2-0) also struggled to clear the defensive glass.

Really the only difference was the debut of guard Ricky Kreklow, the redshirt sophomore transfer from Missouri.

His final numbers were modest, finishing with three points, four rebounds, and two assists in 17 minutes of action, but Kreklow made plenty more plays that wouldn't show up in the box score.

He dove for loose balls, played aggressive defense, and made the extra pass, drawing comparisons to departed guard Jorge Gutierrez.

"He just gives you a dimension that really helps us because he is so active," head coach Mike Montgomery said. "He's not afraid to get on the floor, he's not afraid to get after a ball. I thought he did pretty well."

Kreklow was more modest in evaluating his first game since March 2011, when he scored three points in 12 minutes during a first-round NCAA Tournament loss.

"I think I did okay. I did what I anticipated I would do. I felt like I gave a good effort out there on defense, rebounds, steals."

It was all the more impressive because Kreklow had a screw placed in his right foot in early October – "It looked like they went to Ace Hardware and grabbed a screw," he joked – because of a stress fracture and missed a month, but had no issues, especially after ramping up his workload in the last week.

Entering the game with 13:27 left in the first half, Kreklow hit his first-ever shot for Cal, a three-pointer, but his biggest offensive contribution came when he found Crabbe for a corner three during a 4-on-2 fast break with 45 seconds left before intermission.

It pushed the lead to 34-26, Cobbs would add a layup before the buzzer, and the shot sparked Crabbe to a huge performance after the break.

The junior hit 7-of-10 shots in the second half, scoring 24 seemingly effortless points.

"Ironically I thought that the pass that Kreklow made to him kind of got him going," Montgomery said. "It was nothing more than good basketball."

In previous years, Crabbe's miserable 1-of-6 start might have turned him into a bystander. Tuesday night he stayed aggressive and eventually found his stroke.

"I just told myself this year I can't let my offensive game affect the way I play," Crabbe said, adding that Kreklow had told him in practice to "shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot," jokingly referring to it as the 'Kreklow method.'

"I knew I was always going to be happy playing with Ricky, but after tonight, man. I think it's going to be pretty exciting," Crabbe said.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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