BERKELEY -- After heading into the locker room at halftime with a 25-point lead, the No. 24 California basketball team let up a bit defensively in the second stanza, but still managed to come away with a 77-56 win over UC Irvine at Haas Pavilion on Friday night, led by a game-high 24 points from sophomore wing Allen Crabbe.
"The coaches tell me that they need me to shoot the ball when I'm open, and obviously, the bigs have set good screens for me in order for me to get open," Crabbe said.
The Bears (1-0) played 11 different players in the season-opener, with seven seeing double-digit minutes and all but forward Robert Thurman scoring at least two points. Cal got just 17 points off the bench, led by four points from Justin Cobbs and Bak Bak.
"It didn't work quite as well as maybe we wanted," said senior power forward Harper Kamp. "I think we wanted a lot of energy, and that's what Coach was going for, playing a lot of guys, and we just need to step that up a notch, coming off the bench. That's one of the things we talked about in the locker room, was just making sure that we have a lot of energy off the bench. It's our job as starters to start that energy and their job to come in and either match that or bring even more, so that's what I think he was looking for, playing that many people."
Aside from Crabbe, two other Bears notched double-digit points, including Kamp (10) and senior guard Jorge Gutierrez (11), who left the game late in the second half with cramps.
"I wanted to play as many guys as I could, because that's what this preseason is for, is to get some guys some experience, but we ran into a little bit of difficulty in the second half with certain guys off the floor," said head coach Mike Montgomery. "We only had two guys (Brandon Smith and Crabbe) play 30 minutes, but you'd like to be able to keep, well, with three games in five days, that's going to be a chore for us, anyways, so Harper, Jorge, Allen, we tried to limit their minutes a little bit, as best we could."
Crabbe came out hot, hitting his first two three-point attempts and at one point, scoring seven straight points. Gutierrez helped out with his first steal of the season with 16:42 left to play in the first half, sending an outlet pass to Crabbe under the basket for an up-and-under bucket to give Cal a 13-2 lead.
"I just feel like that set the tempo for us," Crabbe said. "We had a comfortable lead, but we kind of had some mistakes on defense in the second half, but I guess that gap in the first half let us, I guess, make up for those mistakes. I think that if we're just more aggressive coming out at the start, that'll set the tempo for us."
The Bears shot 60.9 percent from the field and 66.7 from three-point range as late as 15:48 into the first half, and held the Anteaters (0-1) scoreless for the final 4:32 of the stanza.
"I liked how we came out aggressive," Crabbe said. "We got into them on defense and that kind of let us feed off of that, getting fast breaks and getting stuff open on offense. I feel like we executed pretty well, and I think us being more aggressive on defense, coming out on defense to start the game, set the tempo for us."
After the break, Cal began to let up on both ends of the court, at one point facing a 15-2 run by Irvine.
"It's always disappointing when you see a lapse like that, especially on the defensive end, no matter how many points we were up or whatever the lead is," said Kamp, who scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 27 minutes. "We've just got to keep on them, extend the lead and try to keep them from scoring the ball. That's our main goal, and we've got to keep that up, even when we have the lead."
After shooting 53.3 percent from the field in the first half, the Bears shot just 38.7 percent after the break, with Kamp going just 1-for-3, playing the majority of his minutes in the first half.
"I feel really good," said Kamp, who has undergone two knee surgeries in his time at Cal. "I feel really excited about the way my knee has been feeling. The doctors here have been really helpful and I think my progress has been really good. The coaches have been really good in helping me out and giving me subs at the right time. I think coach Montgomery has a feel for when my knee needs a little rest and how to make me more effective, pulling me out in small stints and things like that. Overall, I feel really good and only getting better."
After pulling down six boards and scoring six points in the first half, sophomore big man Richard Solomon -- playing without his protective goggles - fell largely silent, scoring just two more points and pulling down just two more rebounds after the half.
"Richard started off really rebounding the ball well and did a nice job," Montgomery said. "The second half, I didn't really think he was quite as good. We've just got to get Richard's focus up for 40 minutes and get him to where he can play the way he did early on the boards a little bit more."
Solomon was spelled by true freshman David Kravish, who shot 1-for-3 from the field in his first collegiate action, pulling down seven rebounds and chipping in an assist and a block in 15 minutes on the floor, with eight of those minutes coming in second-half action.
"Kravish played well," Montgomery said. "I think Kravish had seven rebounds in a short period of time. He's got a great nose for the ball, and he just knows how to play."
Montgomery mixed up the rotation a bit in the second half, experimenting with player guard Jeff Powers at the four and teaming sophomore transfer Cobbs with both Smith and Gutierrez.
"The best combination included certain guys and that's something that we have to continue to work on, to get players ready to go," Montgomery said. "We ran into a little bit of difficulty when we had certain players off the floor, but we've got to develop our depth, we've got to develop guys that can come in and play with others and help and contribute."
Powers finished with three points in five minutes, while Cobbs scored four points on 1-of-4 shooting in 20 minutes, with four assists and a steal. Thurman played eight minutes, with two rebounds and no points.
"We went small when they went small," Montgomery said. "A lot of that was we just did not want to run a whole bunch of minutes for some of the guys.
"Robert had a little injury in warm-ups that bothered him. He did have a little something that was bothering him, and their lineup, they were small. What we tried to do with Robert when they had the big guy in, the stronger guy, we felt that would be a good match-up for Robert, but the way they played, it wasn't a good match-up for a bigger guy like that."
Cobbs entered the game with 14:43 left in the first half, and showed a bit of the daring athleticism that he displayed in last week's exhibition against UC San Diego, taking a pass from Smith slashing inside and then kicking out to Smith for a long two from the left wing to give the Bears a 13-point lead with just under nine minutes left in the half.
From there, Cal went on an 8-2 run, taking a 19-point lead on a jumper by Bak. The Bears then went on a 8-1 run to end the half.
Cal led by as many as 27 points less than three and a half minutes into the second period, going up 57-30 on a jumper by Kravish. Kravish and Kamp had a few defensive mix-ups, stumbling over one another after a missed jumper by the freshman big man with 12:28 left in the half. Kravish came up a bit lame, turning his ankle.
"Guys like Dave, you saw the way he can go get the ball on offense and defense, just on the glass and he's got some good timing on his blocks," Kamp said. "You saw that in the exhibition. He changed a few shots tonight."
Crabbe notched just eight points in the first half on 3-of-7 shooting and 2-of-4 from three-point range, including a nothing-but-net three-pointer on the team's first shot of the season. Once the second half dawned, though, Crabbe found his happy place, hammering home 7-of-12 shots from the field to finish the day 10-of-19, and 4-of-10 from three-point range.
"My coaches tell me to just be more aggressive and I've just got to be more aggressive to help my team win," Crabbe said. "I've just got to find other ways than score, to help my team as well, probably go get offensive rebounds and help out on the boards more."
Crabbe did just that, pulling down two rebounds and following up a missed three with 17:37 left in the game with a steal and a thunderous dunk that brought the crowd of 5,305 to their feet.
"I guess you could put that on the hustle chart: I got a steal," Crabbe smiled. "But, I just want to do whatever I can to help my team win. This is a team thing, and coach emphasizes that all the time in the locker room: This is a team. We've just got to play together and stay on each other."
-- Gutierrez's ponytail and the bleach-blond hair of Solomon and Cobbs weren't the only questionable hairstyle choices on the floor. Irvine's Michael Wilder sported an afro straight out of the 1970s.
"I actually played against him in AAU basketball back in LA," Crabbe said. "He had it back then, too. He was a familiar face."
Kamp interrupted, smiling.
"He's committed to it. He makes it work," Kamp said.
-- Crabbe -- who endured some knocks to the head late last season - said that his concussion issues are in the past.
"I'm feeling alright. I'm feeling great," Crabbe said. "That was a minute ago. I feel fine right now. I had problems in my knee a little bit last year, but in the offseason, we focused on getting my legs stronger, but I feel fine. I feel great."
"He's way goofier now," Kamp joked.
-- Reacting to UCLA's 69-58 loss on Friday to Loyola Marymount, Montgomery said, "That's not good for us. That's not good for the league."
-- Cal is now 4-0 in season openers under Montgomery.
-- The Bears are now 5-2 all-time against the Anteaters. The last time that the two met was in the 2003-04 season, when Cal downed Irvine 65-57. The home team has won every game in the series.
-- Crabbe scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game, hitting both three-point attempts. He scored 20 points for the seventh time in his career, connecting on four of 10 three-pointers.
-- Gutierrez tallied two steals, and is now just 18 shy of Cal's all-time top-10 in that category. Gutierrez finished with 11 points and a game-highs with nine rebounds and seven assists. The Bears had 21 assists on the night, marking the first time since Feb. 5, 2011 that Cal broke the 20-assist mark.
-- In the first 13 minutes of the first half, the Bears were good on four of five three-point attempts, with Crabbe hitting two and Gutierrez and Cobbs each hitting one apiece. Overall, Cal hit 12-of-19 shots from the field with seven different scorers in that stretch, and at halftime, the Bears had hit five of their nine attempts from beyond the arc.
-- In his Cal debut after transferring from Minnesota and sitting out last season, Cobbs scored four points with four assists and a steal.
"Justin, obviously, I think everyone knows what he can bring, and he's going to add a new dimension to our team and he's just to continue to get better," Kamp said. "He's got that mindset, where he just wants to get better every game, and that's really going to help us down the stretch."
-- After setting a school record for free throws made and attempted last season, the Bears hit 13-of-19 from the charity stripe.
-- The 47 rebounds in the game for Cal topped last season's high of 44, which the Bears recorded on two occasions. Four players -- Gutierrez (9), Kamp (8) and Kravish (7) -- all had at least seven boards, as Cal out-rebounded Irvine by a margin of 47-28.
Cal faces off against George Washington on Sunday at Haas Pavilion at 6:30 PM on ESPNU.
Following that, the Bears will play a Tuesday tilt against Austin Peay at 7 PM at home, before going on the road to face Georgia.
"Three games in five days is going to be a chore for us, so Harper, Jorge and Allen, I tried to limit their minutes as best I could," Montgomery said. "Harper was good. Harper's just good. He reads stuff so well. I thought he was very unselfish. We knew that they would double the post. We prepared for it briefly. We didn't spend a lot of time, but we knew that they would come and double the post and we had we had a strategy for that and Harper did a really nice job coming out and getting us good shots out of that … Bak's got to be able to play. Robert's got to be able to play, as well."