When Washington State and the University of Washington came to Berkeley earlier in the Pac-12 calendar, their visits were short, swift, and resoundingly unsuccessful. When the California Golden Bears traveled to the state of Washington this week, the means were altered a bit, but the ends remained true as Mike Montgomery’s men were able to complete a clean sweep of WSU and UW, a feat the program has not accomplished since 2009.
In a conference where everyone beats up on one another, Cal was actually pushed and stressed by a WSU who been on the receiving end of most beatings. Only outdone by USC (a team who’s only conference win was against Cal), WSU’s place at the tail-end of the Pac-12 totem pole has been cemented, but on Wednesday night, they were not going to fold easily as their ranking would suggest.
For the vast majority of the game, the Cougars went bucket for bucket and step by step with the Golden Bears, and forced overtime. With 17 lead changes between both squads, WSU was able to push Cal to edge with 13 three pointers, it was Senior guard Justin Cobbs, once again, who steered the Bears seconds away from a victory in regulation with a three point play. His end game heroics were quelled by two free throws from WSU’s DaVonte Lacy, but as perviously mentioned, the ‘Kernel’s’ heroics were only quelled. Once overtime hit, Cobbs extended his 15 point second half with seven of Cal’s 11 in overtime.
After another dynamic performance, Haas homers would call Cobbs the undisputed x-factor of the team and the Pac-12. Critics in Cardinal would call Cal a one-man team. No matter where your allegiance rests in the Bay Area, one thing is for certain: the guy is clutch and exudes leadership. With a 22 point game (his seventh 20+ game of the season) and seven assists to boot, his presence on the team is invaluable as he is emphatic. Cal’s contest against WSU ended with Cobbs slamming home two points and a Cal victory at the buzzer.
Ricky Kreklow, who was hampered for much of the season with a broken hand and returned to the floor in a home loss against Stanford, was injected into the starting lineup against WSU and exhibited an energetic, scrappy performance of 3 rebounds, 8 points, an assist and a block after 23 minutes. A nice inclusion into the starting rotation given Kreklow’s desire to make contributions, a quality that Mike Montgomery has been struggling to find from some, if not all, of his players during various times this season.
Richard Solomon also added his seventh double-double of the season with 11 rebounds and 15 points.
The Bears took their 80-76 triumph all the way into Seattle on Sunday afternoon against the Washington Huskies.
As it has been the case many times this season, Cal started against the Huskies with a flatline. Hands down and down by 12 points early, Cal needed to reboot their energy quickly. However, after finding their defibrillator in a half ending, 19-2 run, the Bears arose and never left anything to chance.
Although Cobbs was relatively quiet with 10 points, he kept active with 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Again Kreklow cracked the starting five and although his performance was more tepid statistically speaking than the game prior, he managed to sink a critical three pointer in the second half.
As routine as it is necessary, Solomon dominated the paint with 18 points and 7 rebounds.
Jordan Mathews, the man who Kreklow replaced in the starting rotation, had 9 points off the bench.
The real man of the match however was Sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace. Wallace parlayed an explosive, well balanced game that provides Cal fans a glimmer of just what he can achieve when he grows into a seasoned Senior. Wallace’s 20 points were boosted by 8 rebounds (5 of which came off the defensive glass), and four assists. Add a block and a steal, and you have the kind of game Cal fans know Wallace can produce when he is locked in for 30+ minutes.
After their late first half scamper, Cal staved away any semblance of a Huskie comeback and left the Alaska Airlines Arena with a 72-59 win.
Cal swept the Washington schools in two different fashions, but the final result is precisely what this team needs. With Cal you have a team that has mastered the art of duplicity. One night they can erupt in transition and play stout defense and the next you are left wondering where their energy evaporated to.
With two galvanizing wins on the road, Cal heads into Wednesday night’s home game against UCLA with much needed momentum. A challenge certainly awaits.
The Bruins are 2nd in the Pac-12 and riding momentum of their own in the form of a three game win streak. With only six games left in the season, and the Big Dance on the horizon Cal will need to change their might for duplicity, into a model of consistency.
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Jeremy is co-founder of baysportsreport.com