BERKELEY -- When informed that, with their combined five blocks on the night in a resounding 82-56 win over Washington – they became the only two California teammates in school history to record at least 100 blocks apiece, Richard Solomon and David Kravish smiled, looked one another in the eye, and simply high-fived.
“I didn’t know that,” smirked Kravish.
Solomon squawked that it seemed as though Kravish – who now has 136 rejections in his career – had 100 blocks on Wednesday night alone.
“Everything they were putting up, he was sending it back.” Solomon grinned.
Aside from Kravish’s personal block party, the Bears (13-4, 4-0 in Pac-12) held the Huskies (11-7, 3-2) to a paltry 19-for-63 (30.2%) from the field, with senior point Justin Cobbs frustrating Washington’s C.J. Wilcox at every turn.
[ANALYSIS ($): Cobbs Leads Defensive Effort]
Cal, said head coach Mike Montgomery had not had such a complete defensive effort – which included out-rebounding the Huskies, 44-33 – yet this season.
“Probably not against a team of that quality,” said Montgomery, who, with the win, moved to 123-63 in Berkeley, tying Lou Campanelli (123-108 from 1986 to 1993) for third on the school’s all-time list. “I thought the kids really understood the game plan. Defensively, they did a really good job. Justin was really good on Wilcox. Wilcox ended up with 18, but a lot of that stuff was late. He did a terrific job when there were some switch-offs. I thought defensively, we were very good.”
The Bears’ first conference home game of the season, though, didn’t start out quite as Cal had planned on the offensive end.
Cal hit just one of its first six shots to start the game, while Washington hit four of its first seven. At the first media time out, with 15:40 left in the first half, the Bears were dead. They were getting out-hustled on the boards, Solomon wound up touching the ball just once in the first eight minutes and Cal could not buy a shot.
Then, whatever magic has taken hold of this team at the most opportune of opportune moments over the Bears’ three-game Pac-12 winning streak waved its wand again.
With a bippity boppity boop and a little bit of abracadabra, the Bears went on a 28-9 run to finish the half as the Huskies – the same team that lost to No. 1 overall Arizona by just nine points and defeated No. 15 Colorado last time out – turned into a pumpkin as Cal reeled off off its fourth straight win to start conference play by the largest margin of victory over the Huskies since 1997.
“We just came out with the mentality that we were just going to keep doing our thing; we were just going to keep pushing,” Kravish said. “I think that’s really hard for other teams to deal with, when, no matter what they do – good or bad – we just keep coming at them the same way, the same way, the same mentality, nothing’s frustrating. I think, with the exception of a little bit there at the end of the first half, that’s what we did the whole game, and I just think it overwhelmed them a little bit. We moved the ball around and took advantage.”
Five Bears wound up in double figures in scoring (Solomon with 13, Kravish and Cobbs with 11, Tyrone Wallace with 14 and Jeff Powers with 12) and both Kravish and Solomon finished with double-doubles, with Solomon turning the trick for the sixth time this season.
“We started the game, we were nervous. We haven’t played at home in a month. So, really, for the freshmen, they really don’t have any recollection of what a conference game’s going to be like, at home, better competition perhaps, so I thought we started off nervous,” Montgomery said. “Then, we missed some really easy shots, early. Once we got going a little bit, Jeff came in and hit a couple. Defensively, we were pretty consistent. The second thing I thought we did well was 15-to-1 assist-to-turnover in the second half. 15-to-1. That was really good. The ball was moving. We knew that they had match-up problems at the post inside, so we probably got a little bit sticky trying to look too hard at the post and didn’t disguise it very well. We were putting the ball up, over our head, and looking at the post, and everyone in the gym knew where we were trying to go with it, rather than just let it come to us naturally, but at the end of the day, we end up with double-doubles for both David and Richard, and that’s always good.”
It all started with a drive through the lane by Cobbs, who was fouled trying to drive on Mike Anderson. Cobbs hit both of his free throws, and in came Powers. After a missed jumper by Wilcox and a long rebound by Wallace (who finished with eight boards), Kravish hit his patented mid-range jumper from the left win, and the Bears were in business.
The Bears then caught fire, hammering home eight of their next 12 shots while the Huskies went 2-for-12, and Wilcox went 1-for-6, guarded by Cobbs, who finished the first half with just one foul.
Powers continued his heroics from Saturday’s comeback win against Oregon State, quickly contributing with an assist within a minute of coming in, and recovering from a missed long two to get a strip on defense, run the floor and nail a trey with 10:08 left in the half to give the Bears a 10-6 lead. Powers finished 4-for-10 and 3-for-4 from three-point land, and has now hit 14 of his last 19 attempts from long distance.
“Jeff’s a really good shooter,” Kravish said. “If you’re late on him, he’s going to knock it down, and you can’t foul him, because you’ve seen the result of that.”
Powers’ most dramatic triple came with 13:19 left in the game, when Cobbs kicked the ball out to the redshirt junior in the left corner, and Powers kissed his shot high off the glass and in, disappearing under a pile of Bears bench players, led by Sam Singer -- who himself accounted for seven points and three assists in 12 minutes, finishing things off with a long-bomb three from up top with 1:35 left.
Powers also managed to draw the foul on the play, and hit his free throw for the four-point play to put Cal up by 20. Powers is now 14-for-23 on the season from three, and has hit all three free throws he’s attempted – all three of which have come in the past two games.
“I called bank for him if he didn’t call bank,” Solomon said. “That was a great play by Jeff. The crazy thing is, I was standing right under the basket, so I’d seen it going in, and I was just waiting for it to kiss off the glass and it went in and they caught the foul.”
By every measure, the win was perhaps the Bears’ most dominant of the season. Cal shot a blistering 21-for-34 in the second half (61.8%) and finished shooting 33-for-60 (55%), dished out 22 assists on 33 field goals, scored 38 points in the paint against a relatively small lineup and held the Huskies’ big man Perris Blackwell to just one point on 0-for-5 shooting, all the while closing out on shots and bottling up ball handlers.
“There’s always room for improvement,” Kravish said. “We weren’t getting back on defense, as much. They kind of beat us in transition, and then that stretch in the first half, where we were kind of letting our offense affect our defense, and they got some points and went on a little bit of a run there. That’s something we’ve got to work on, just mentality-wise, but otherwise, I think this was a great game for us. Everybody played hard. Everybody got to get in there. That’s what you’re aiming for: You’re aiming for wins like this, where everybody plays and everybody gets after it and it’s a real team win.”
Every single player on the roster saw time on the floor, including freshman Jabari Bird, who played 12 minutes and tallied two points on 1-of-2 shooting with five assists in his first game back since spraining his ankle against Creighton. Bird got on the board finally with a big slam-dunk with 13 seconds left on the clock to push the lead to 28.
“I thought Jabari did a nice job of letting the game come to him – five assists – rather than trying to force it,” Montgomery said. “He’s trying to feel his way around a bit right now, and he’ll get better [with] the more practice time, and as he gets used to having that ankle.”
Also notable was the play of redshirt sophomore Christian Behrens, who has come on strong over the past several games, giving Kravish and Solomon ample rest while providing an athletic boost in the low post.
“I think Christian Behrens is doing a nice job. He’s coming along nicely,” Montgomery said.
Behrens – coming off his second ACL surgery last season -- tallied six points on 3-of-3 shooting, adding three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 13 minutes.
Behrens was part of the 20-3 run that got Cal going in the middle of the first half, pushing the lead to three points with a hesitation reverse lay-in off an assist from Singer. In the second half, after Nigel Williams-Goss stripped Wallace and went for the reverse in-bound save, Behrens picked the ball out of the air and tossed it to Solomon for a slam dunk to make it 63-34, Cal, with 7:24 left.
“You didn’t know. He’s had two ACL surgeries, and the second one, you’d be cautious, too, coming back off a second one,” Montgomery said of what he expected out of Behrens coming into the campaign. “He’s a little bit leery. He’s starting to get acclimated to it. He’s getting stronger with it, he’s moving around better. I think he’s not afraid of it as much, and he’s getting in better shape. We’ve told him all along: You have to play hard. He’s doing that. He’s playing hard, he’s trying to take charges and all that kind of stuff.”
-- Cal was picked to finish fifth by the conference media in the annual preseason poll. The Bears are now tied atop the Pac-12 with the Wildcats as the only two undefeated teams in the league. The last time Cal started 4-0 in conference play was the 2008-09 season, when the Bears downed Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State and Washington before falling to the Cardinal and the Beavers.
Cal has started its conference season with at least four straight wins 11 times in its history. Seven times, the Bears have started 5-0, four times they've started off 6-0, twice 9-0 and once (1956-57), Cal has gone 10-0 to start the conference slate.
-- With his 11 points, Cobbs moved up to 27th on the program’s all-time scoring list, now with 1,177 points. Next up is Chris Washington, who had 1,178 points from 1984-87.
-- With his team-high 14 points, Wallace has now scored in double figures in each of his last eight games, and is averaging 15.1 ppg over that stretch.
-- With his four blocks, Kravish moved into sole possession of second place on Cal’s all-time block list, and now has 136. Next up is Michael Stewart, who had 207 from 1994-97. His double-double was his fourth of the year.
-- Montgomery tied Oregon State coaching legend Slats Gill (1929-64) for the third-most league wins in conference history. He is now 276-142 in 24 years at Stanford and Cal, while Gill was 276-241 in 31 seasons.
-- The Bears now lead the all-time series against the Huskies, 79-78.
-- Cal’s 26-point victory was its largest margin of victory in the series since an 80-52 win in 1997.