After losing their final two games in Maui, the California Golden Bears returned to Haas Pavilion, returned with Richard Solomon, and most importantly, returned to the win column. The Bears hammered the visiting UC Irvine Anteaters, 73-56.
The Bears were energized in the first half, playing aggressive basketball and generating the spectacular at times. Freshman guard Jabari Bird’s leaping swat of UC Irvine’s starting 7’6″ center Mamadou Ndiaye and Tyrone Wallace’s fast break, behind the back, one handed slam come to mind as moments that certainly brought the crowd to their feet. But while those highlights and dominance on the boards, 26 from nine players, the Golden Bears struggled shooting the ball. With the Bears going 13-29 from the field, 3-9 from three pointers, and 6-12 from free throws, it was obvious to everyone in attending that the Bears were enthused to be back at home, but sloppy in their execution.
When the Bears tried to switch things up and have the freshmen duo of Sam Singer (guard) and Kameron Rooks (center), they were unsure at times with the ball and combined for zero points and 1 turnover in the opening 20 minutes. The visiting Anteaters did not shoot the ball any better and despite their shortfalls the Bears were up 35-19 at the half. David Kravish however, answered the call.
With only 4 points in the first half, Kravish kept his impressive offensive form knocking down mid range jumper after mid range jumper to increase the Bears lead to 20 points at one point. Kravish, finished the night with 19 points (which ties his career high) and 10 rebounds.
“They just kept giving me the ball…I’m one of those guys, I don’t really care if I score, I just want the team to win. If I don’t get those shots and I pass to someone else and they hit the jumper, I’m just as happy,” said a humble Kravish. The junior continued by explaining that this season, head coach Mike Montgomery is constantly reminding him that he can have a big scoring night too, “Coach is making a point to tell me where I’ve got to take that shot because I can make that shot just as easily as everybody else. If they pass me the ball, I am just as happy taking the shot but I care more about the win than the points.”
It goes without saying that UC Irvine is not the most recognizable team in college basketball, but their most noticeable player, the towering Ndiaye, was nothing more than a mirage. “I thought he got into our heads a little bit, just because of guys trying to figure out what to do against him,” Montgomery stated.
However, this giant Senegalese beam pole with slow feet, little technique shooting the ball down low, and a huge target for fouls. The Bears nullified the massive freshman early through his own trepidation, and Ndiaye fouled out with 7:29 left in the second half.
“He was a giant, I didn’t see anything but his chest the whole game. It was a good experience playing against a big guy like that,” Solomon continued elaborating on Ndiaye, “If I was going to attack him I just wanted to try and go to his body and draw the foul. I tried to get him to foul me or use my quickness against him.”
Solomon, who stated in the post game press conference that his vision was completely blurry out of his right eye after suffering a corneal abrasion, was happy and eager to return back on the floor tonight and had a sound contribution of 13 points and 8 rebounds. However, Richard is the kind of player who can and should get a double-double every game, “Richard had made a comment on radio or somewhere, that when you miss a couple games, then you’re not in game rhythm. And I thought that was true. I didn’t see the same Richard that I did going into the Maui. I think he was a little bit tentative, this game will help him get his rhythm back.”
Regardless of Solomon’s dip in pace, Cal improved from their first half blunders and truly came alive as a team to put away the Anteaters. On a night where Cal’s big men and UC Irvine’s even bigger man took all the attention, it was the effort of the Bears collectively that ensured victory. Jabari Bird had 14 points, Tyrone Wallace had a well rounded game with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists; and Justin Cobbs did what he does best.
“Truthfully we don’t win without Justin distributing the ball. Justin had nine assists and should have had more. He came out a played a really good floor game,” explained Montgomery.
The Golden Bears improve to 6-2 and face the UC Santa Barbara Guachos on Friday night in Santa Barbara.
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