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November 12, 2012

Crabbe pours in 27 as Bears roll



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BERKELEY -- The California basketball team took the lead on its opening possession off of a Justin Cobbs jumper, and then built up an insurmountable margin on its way to the first victory of the season -- a 78-65 win over CSU Bakersfield on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.

Cobbs -- along with fellow junior Allen Crabbe -- powered the Bears (1-0) on offense with 47 points between them and big men David Kravish and Richard Solomon provided the defense with 18 rebounds -- nine apiece -- and a combined three blocked shots.

Crabbe finished the game with 27 points (11-17, 4-5 3PT, 1-2 FT), and Cobbs added 22 (8-11, 0-2 3PT, 6-6 FT). The dynamic duo started fast in the first half, with Crabbe going into the break with 20 points and Cobbs 14.

Cal's defense was prohibitive against Bakersfield's offense -- holding the Roadrunners to just 34.6% (27-for-78) from the field and 28.6% (4-for-14) from beyond the arc.

Bakersfield featured two players who in double figures in senior guard Stephon Carter -- who led the Roadrunners with 15 points (6-16, 3-4 FT), eight rebounds and five steals on the night -- and teammate Brandon Barnes, who added 12 points (6-for-14) off the bench.

"The thing about Bakersfield is that they are all seniors," said Bears head coach Mike Montgomery. "They did have a winning season in Division I last year and went on a summer tour. I felt like they would not be intimidated. They could potentially be physical and play hard."

Cal built a 21-point advantage at the 10:01 mark of the first half, which forced the Roadrunners to switch to a full-court press and a collapsing zone defense in order to put a stop to the bleeding. Cal extended their advantage to 23 points over the next three and a half minutes and held a 38-15 advantage with 6:20 to go before the break.

With a 9-6 lead early in the half, Crabbe fueled a 10-point run with eight points -- two three-point makes and a jumper from the paint. Cobbs put an exclamation point on the rally with a steal and a high-flying fast break dunk that made the score 19-6, with 14:28 left in the first period.

Bakersfield didn't lie down for the heavily-favored Bears. The Roadrunners went on an eight-point run of their own, aided by two and-one free-throw makes and a lay-up off of an offensive rebound, Cal's lead was reduced to 15 points at the 4:19 mark -- forcing Montgomery to put his starters back out on the floor.

"They had some kids who were pretty athletic, and they were down 20, so they weren't really worried about anything," Montgomery said.

Once again, the starters produced while on the court by extending the lead again to 22 points before finishing the first half up by 17, 45-28. If not for a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Bakersfield sophomore guard Javonte Maynor Cal would have gone into the locker room with a hefty 20-point lead.

The Roadrunners began the second half much like the first with another three-point score by Maynor. Despite Bakersfield inching closer to 45-31, Cal used two fast breaks to extend its lead to 20 points -- 51-31 -- with 16:31 remaining in the contest.

With just 14 minutes remaining, the Bears extended their march towards victory and went up by 22 when Kravish took an alley-oop pass from Crabbe for a fast break dunk and a Bears 57-35 lead.

The game would never get closer than 13 points the rest of the way. The Bears would eventually extend their lead by 23 points, and held leads of 20 points or more seven different times throughout the second half, but each time it appeared the home team would run away with the game, the visiting Roadrunners would pull them back -- forcing the Bears into poor decisions and sloppy play.

Montgomery said after the game that, while he played 11 players in the opener, that won't be the case unless he can actually get production out of that big a rotation.

"This is not Disneyland. I'm not going to play guys just to play them," Montgomery said. "I need to find out who can help, and how."

Senior guard Brandon Smith played 25 minutes after injuring his shoulder in last week's exhibition, and went 2-for-6 from the floor with two boards, five assists, one steal and three turnovers. Smith had to be taken out late in the game because of shoulder stiffness.

Cal may very well get shooter Ricky Kreklow on the floor Tuesday for a 6:30 PM tip against Pepperdine, in what Montgomery called a "cameo," after Kreklow underwent offseason surgery to repair a stress reaction in his foot. If he does not play on Tuesday, he will likely play on Friday against Denver.

NOTES:
-- True freshman guard -- and Bakersfield native -- Tyrone Wallace notched firsts across the stat sheet on the night. In his first official game as a Bear, he scored his first points, pulled down his first rebound, dished his first assist and made his first free throw and three-point attempt. Wallace finished the evening with six points (2-for-5, 1-for-3 3PT, 1-for-2 FT), five boards and three assists, to go along with three turnovers in 23 minutes of play.
-- With 1:27 remaining in the first half, Cal had a scare when Crabbe went down in the paint and didn't get up right away after rolling his ankle. The offensive star and team leader limped off the court and did not return until the start of the second half.
-- Crabbe's 27 points are his most since scoring 27 in overtime against Arizona on Feb. 11, 2011. It is the 14th time in his career that he has scored 20 or more points in a game.
-- Under Montgomery, Cal is 5-0 in season openers and 30-3 in nonconference home games.

Publisher Ryan Gorcey contributed to this report.


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