Bears blast Bruins at Haas

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BERKELEY -- In what was by far the most complete offensive effort of the season, the California men's basketball team put an unflattering welt across the face of UCLA, shooting a season-best 65.4 percent from the field en route to an 85-69 win at Haas Pavilion, marking the 11th straight win for the Bears at home this season, and the first time that Cal has had six different players score in double digits in quite some time.
"These guys just felt very comfortable, they were moving the ball, they were getting rewarded for their passes, there was nobody thinking in terms of, 'I've got to score,'" said Bears head coach Mike Montgomery. "Everybody was finding the open guy and it was fun to watch."
After a defense-optional first half finished with Cal (12-3, 2-0 in Pac-12) leading the Bruins (7-7, 0-2) by just a point, the Bears opened up on a tear in the second stanza, starting off on a 10-0 run and then a 12-4 run that stretched the lead to 62-45 on a no-look behind-the-back bounce pass from sophomore Justin Cobbs to sophomore wing Allen Crabbe for a wide-open three with 11:28 left in the game.
"I was really happy with both halves," said Montgomery. "I thought that we played very well in the first half, but I thought UCLA played well, also."
Crabbe finished the game with a team-high 20 points and pulled down five boards, as Cal -- despite a marked size disadvantage down low against 6-foot-10, 300-plus-pounder Joshua Smith -- managed to out-rebound UCLA by the count of 24-22.
The Bruins kept things close in the first half thanks to the lights-out shooting of 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Tyler Lamb. With main scoring threat Lazeric Jones stifled by senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, UCLA turned to Lamb, who hit 6-of-8 from the field before the break, including 3-of-4 from three.
"Tyler Lamb had a great first half, and had 16 at half and his career high was 17," Montgomery said. "He kind of kept them in. We felt like maybe that wouldn't last, although it sort of did, but we did a good job on the two principles, the guys we tried to minimize."
The combination of true freshman David Kravish and veteran power forward Harper Kamp held Smith in check, limiting the big man to six points and four rebounds in 20 minutes, while pressuring him into three of the Bruins' 13 turnovers.
"Jorge, once again, I thought did a great job on Jones, and going into the game, I just almost apologized to Kravish, trying to put him on Smith," Montgomery said. "But, the kid just doesn't, he's just un-fazed by stuff. He just plays. I thought we had a good game plan. I thought that it was effective, once we got to the double, forced some turnovers and took him out of rhythm a little bit. I thought that was good, although, it probably did give up a lot for Lamb, and he took advantage of it."
Kravish scored eight straight points for the Bears in the first half, starting with a bucket at the 11:58 mark and lasting through a lay-up with 7:40 to go. He finished with a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, topping the 12 he had against Austin Peay earlier this season.
"It's a unique experience," Kravish said of guarding Smith, to whom he gave up more than a few pounds. "We had a great scouting report and we worked on that in practice. The last couple days, I've been really guarding hard, trying to fight for position, and beating guys to spots, so the scouting report was great and we went over it in practice, so I was ready to go. They didn't want me to wrestle with him, obviously, but they wanted me to beat him to the spot and just make sure that I can fight high, and if they were going to make the entry pass, jump low and get ready for the double."
On hand was a season-high crowd of 9,750 fans, which gave the Bears plenty of juice as they extended their lead in the second half.
"When we've got guys coming off the bench and everybody's scoring, you look up at the scoreboard and everybody's in double digits, everybody's scoring, everybody's getting the opportunity and everybody's creating for each other, and it makes it a really fun environment on the court," Kravish said. "It's great getting out there, especially in front of all those fans. I think that was probably the most fans we've had this season, so it's crazy, a great environment. Obviously, I didn't rebound too well, so there's room for improvement."
Cal had 28 assists on 34 field goals to just nine turnovers, and scored 40 points in the paint.
"28 assists on 34 baskets, my goodness, I just don't know that I've seen that," Montgomery said. "We really passed the ball and distributed it well. When you can do that - when you're unselfish and you recognize that when you get penetration, who's defending, who's defending and who's open - it just makes everybody's job so much easier. Gosh, we shoot 65, 66 percent, but it's based on the fact that we passed the ball and were getting really good shots."
Also helping out on the defensive effort against Smith was reserve Robert Thurman, who came out on fire in the second half, shooting 5-for-5 from the field and finishing with a career-high 11 points and three rebounds.
"I told Rob he was going to play," Montgomery said. "I just didn't feel like there was much choice there. We had to play him, just in terms of a size guy, that could maybe match up physically with Smith, and that at some point David might wear down and we couldn't really play Harper in there on him. He would wear down, because he's going to wear you down, Smith is, with his size. So, we told Robert he was going to play, and we told him what he needed to do, and he did it. As far as the scoring, I think that was a byproduct of really guys passing the ball, putting him in a position to be successful. He was open, they dropped it and he finished it, and that's really all he has to do. He doesn't need to create shots for himself. If he can just finish and be where he needs to be -- he actually boarded the ball a little bit, which was good to see. He went up on the glass a couple times and got some balls, so yeah, we were pleased with Robert."
With just over nine minutes to go in the second half, Smith lowered the boom and knocked Thurman over for a bucket inside, much to the chagrin of the fans.
Instead of pouting, though, Thurman came back with a huge slam dunk, drew the foul from Travis Wear and finished off the three-point play.
"Rob was tremendous down there," Cobbs said. "He had fun tonight. He hears his name called, he gets excited, gets out there and going 5-for-5, grabbing three rebounds, that's incredible. He just went out there and put forth the effort and the results speak for themselves."
-- The only home win streak to start the season longer than the Bears' current 11-0 run at Haas Pavilion came on a 12-0 run at the start of the 2002-03 season.
-- Cal has won four of the last five against UCLA after losing 10 of the previous 11.
-- The Bears' 85-69 win is its largest over the Bruins since winning 92-63 on Feb. 1, 2001 in Berkeley.
-- UCLA entered today's game not having allowed more than 63 points in any of its last five games. Only Middle Tennessee State (86-66) has scored more against the Bruins this year.
-- Gutierrez finished with eight assists, 16 points and four boards. Cobbs finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, dishing out eight assists to three turnovers while tallying two steals.
"He doesn't say a word. He just goes to work," Montgomery said of Gutierrez. "He was 8 to 3 assists [to turnovers], Cobbs was 8 to 1, Allen Crabbe 6 to 0. You've got your three perimeter guys with 22 assists. That's pretty impressive. They were moving the ball, they weren't forcing shots, but Jorge sets the tone. If he's able to take a guy out -- we talked about the head of the snake, if you can take the head of the snake, it makes it difficult if they're counting on a certain person to be a factor, and Jorge can minimize and negate, that makes it that much more difficult. I think that was kind of what he's been able to do, and people start to pick up on that."
-- Cal's 28 assists were the most by the Bears since they dished out 20 against Long Beach State on Dec. 28, 2007.
-- UCLA has started 0-2 in Pac-12 play, its worst start since an 0-3 start in 1987-88, when the Bruins finished 16-14 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament, turned down an NIT bid and fired their head coach, Walt Hazzard.