Perhaps it was the early start, or the relatively small crowd at Haas Pavilion. It was still a win for the California Golden Bears. They defeated the Washington Huskies 69-59 in a lackluster, sloppy game on Thursday night. The Bears improved to 12-5 overall and 3-2 in the Pac-12 conference, while the Huskies fell to 8-8 and 1-3.
It was double-double number eight for sophomore star Ivan Rabb, who scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Rabb had 16 points in the second half. Jabari Bird was a perfect four for four after the intermission, and finished with 16. Bird made four of seven from outside the arc on the night. He was the only other Bear in double figures.
"At the end of the day, as long as we win, I'm happy," said Bird. "As of right now, the 'W' is the biggest thing for me."
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said, "The Cal team played pretty much exactly how we told our guys that they were going to play. They were going to be physical, they were going to protect the rim, they were going to make it difficult for us to score, which they did."
Cal did a solid job on Washington's freshman leading scorer Markelle Fultz, who scored 12 points, ten below his season average. Fultz made just 3 of his 15 field goal attempts. The defense by Don Coleman, Charlie Moore and Stephen Domingo among others was definitely a factor, but Fultz also had an off night.
Bird described the game plan for Fultz: "Make sure he sees all five guys at all times, especially in transition."
"He averages 22 or 23 points a game, we said let's do everything in our power to hold him 10 under his average," said coach Cuonzo Martin. That's what they did.
Both teams shot under 40% for the game, and neither team did well from distance. Cal held a significant edge in points in the paint, 32-22. The Bears also dominated in second chance points, 22-10.
Cal led 34-28 at the half, mostly because of their offensive rebounding and 12-5 edge in second chance points.
After the break, the Bears opened up a 10 point lead, but then went through one of those scoring droughts they seem to have in every game. Washington put together a 12-0 run, as the Bears did not score for more than five minutes.
"Moving forward we have to find a way to avoid that, because as we start playing tougher teams, teams that can really score the ball, we've got to find a way to score and lock up on the other end," said Bird.
Finally, Charlie Moore ended the drought when he hit an elbow jumper to tie the game at 40. With the score 45-45, Rabb made a pair at the line, then tipped in his own miss, and Bird drove in for a layup to give the home team the lead for good, 51-45.
With 4:13 to go, Coleman took a hard fall when he was fouled going to the bucket and had to leave the game. Washington picked Domingo to shoot the free throws. Although he has struggled from the line all season (4 for 14), Domingo made both to make the score 61-57.
Rabb scored the next four points for Cal to seal the deal. Both buckets came when he followed his own miss and scored the ball.
The game wasn't an artistic success, but Cal still found a way to win when they were not at their best.
Cal will face Washington State on Saturday afternoon with the tip time at 1:00 p.m. at Haas.
The attendance was announced as 9,093. That was obviously tickets sold.