It there was ever any doubt, the California Golden Bears proved
conclusively that four is greater than two, as they defeated the Eastern
Washington Eagles 78-67 at Haas Pavilion on Friday night.
The home team
improved to 10-1 on the season, and now begins to prepare for the visit of the
5th ranked Wisconsin Badgers on Monday night.
The visiting Eagles got outstanding performances from their two star players, guard Tyler Harvey and Australian big man Venky Jois. Harvey was sensational, with 31 points on 11 of 17 shooting. Jois went for 23. The rest of the team scored just 13 points on three for 23 shooting.
The Bears countered with four players in double figures, led by Tyrone Wallace's 21 points and 11 boards. Christian Behrens' career high 20, and Sam Singer's new career mark with 15. Jordan Mathews added 13.
After the game, Behrens said, “I felt great, I just felt like my teammates found me in the right positions.” He did an excellent job finishing plays, particularly in the second half.
Of Behrens, Singer noted, “Christian is a relentless worker. He is very self-motivated. He's doing a great job.”
“Good win for our guys. I'm happy for our guys to be 10-1 at this point,” said Coach Cuonzo Martin in the post-game press conference. “You have to appreciate them, value wins, understand how you got them and try to prepare to get another one.”
The first game after finals can be a trap, but for the most part Cal handled it. They did get off to a slow start as the Eagles took a 21-14 lead. When Jois drove for a layup, the Eagles led 24-21 with 6:34 left in the half, but the Bears then finessed a 16-0 run over the next six minutes to build a 37-24 lead. Eastern Washington turned it over four times during that stretch as Cal raised their defensive intensity. It was 37-26 (Cal) at the half.
Cal had seven turnovers early, but once they began to take care of the ball, the offense clicked in. For the half the home team made 14 of 24 from the field, an outstanding 58.3%. The visitors made just eight of 26 (31%) and eight of 14 from the foul line.
Eastern Washington came out of the locker room half determined to cut into the Cal lead, and for a time their effort worked.. With 9:41 on the clock, Harvey canned a contested three-pointer from the left corner to reduce Cal's lead to 51-49.
The Bears answered with a 10-0 run to take control. Mathews hit two from the line, and Wallace drained a trey from the left wing. Then Behrens took over with a layup, two free throws and a thunderous slam dunk follow. In that last move, Behrens was hit with a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Cal's lead stayed at double figures the rest of the way. Harvey tried his best to keep the Eagles in it, but it wasn't enough. Cal's team effort trumped the two-man production of the visitors.
Asked after the game if he was surprised that the team is 10-1, Martin simply said, “Yes.”
He added, “When I looked at the schedule and I looked at our personnel where we lacked depth, all of a sudden Jabari Bird is a key guy that goes down. That's tough, but the guys are finding ways to win games.”
They will have a much greater challenge on Monday night. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in college basketball, and their only loss is to second ranked Duke. The Bears will need to find a new level if they are going to get their 11th win.
Tip off on Monday night at Haas is at 6:00 PM.
- Jabari Bird missed his fifth consecutive game. Martin said he is day to day. He has not practiced yet.
- Behrens had eight rebounds.
- Cal shot 27 for 47 for the game, an excellent 57.4%.
- Eastern Washington was just 23 of 54, 42.6%
- Cal made 20 of 27 from the foul line, 74.1%.