BERKELEY -- In his first start, with eight games under his belt in his first collegiate season, California true freshman David Kravish nearly netted his first career double-double, pulling down 10 boards and scoring nine points to go along with a game-high three blocks, as the Bears easily rolled past overmatched San Jose State at Haas Pavilion, 81-36, their largest win since a 47-point defeat of Morgan State on Nov. 25, 1991.
"It's nice to have the opportunity," said Kravish, who learned that he'd be starting during the team's shoot-around right before the game. "It's great being out there. Any time I can get on the court, it's great, getting out there and competing with all the guys and getting after it. We just had a great flow today."
On Wednesday night, Cal (7-2) was far from the team who stepped on the floor in the championship game of the Progressive CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 22. That day, the Bears were undressed in just about every way possible. Missouri stomped on then-No. 20 Cal, 92-53. It was humbling, it was ugly and, most of all, it was a reality check.
"Every time after a loss, you're going to be a little more fired up," said sophomore guard Justin Cobbs, who started his second straight game at the one, and scored 10 points.
Wednesday's tilt at home was far from a signature win, but it was one that the Bears needed, particularly after a close loss to San Diego State on Sunday.
"San Jose State's better than that," said Bears head coach Mike Montgomery. "But, coming off a loss, I think we were a little bit focused on trying to defend and do a better job, and they did a good job with it."
Sophomore wing Allen Crabbe was in a zone from very early on, going 5-of-7 from the field in the first half before finishing with his second-best shooting performance of the season, hitting 7-for-12 for a 58.3 shooting percentage from the field, just shy of his 6-for-9 night against Denver. Crabbe finished with a game-high 18 points, five rebounds, two assists and even a block.
"I think we're just getting better as a collective group, playing together and learning where each other wants the ball and learning when not to get each other the ball," Cobbs said. "I think it's just a learning experience for us. Sunday [against San Diego State], we're just learning. I think our main thing is just learning each other's game and learning the flow."
The one-point loss to the Aztecs came without the services of sophomore big man Richard Solomon, who -- while still suspended from the team -- was on the bench Wednesday in a polo shirt and khakis, cheering hard for his still-active teammates. Solomon was confirmed after the game to be reinstated and active, and he will play against Jackson State on Sunday, though Montgomery would not comment on whether he would start or not.
"He will be reinstated, and is back," Montgomery said. "He is reinstated, and he's back, ready to go … David, we're not worried about … I am not worried about who's starting. I'm worried about who's our best combination of players on the floor, what kind of rotations we have. We need seven, eight, nine players that can continue to help us win."
Solomon cheered the hardest, it seemed, for Kravish, who made the most of his first collegiate start, and became more aggressive and physical as the game went on, even finding his shot in the second half (3-for-5 from the field) after going 1-for-3 from the field before the break.
"I always tell David that he doesn't know how good he's going to be," Cobbs smiled. "David is just talented. I mean, his 15-footer is almost automatic, he's crafty around the basket and any rebound that comes in his area, he's grabbing it. David is doing really well. Obviously, he doesn't have a lot of weight on him, but he's getting there. David's doing well. I'm impressed with him as a freshman. I know, as a freshman, I couldn't do the things he's doing, so I'm really impressed with him."
With 15:33 left in the game, Cobbs took the ball up the court against a press by Shamburger, and found Crabbe on the right at the top of the key. Crabbe dished to sophomore Emerson Murray on the right, who found Kravish at the right elbow for an the jumper to make it 56-16, as the Bears started the second half on an 15-1 run.
"David just is a guy that, he's just always in the right place, you know," Montgomery smiled.
Kravish started off strong on the boards, getting more physical and more aggressive on the glass as the first half went along, finishing the first stanza with a game-high five rebounds.
With just under nine minutes left in the half, Kravish backed up in the low defensive post and changed the angle of an up-and-under shot from a driving Lavanne Pennington. he then grabbed the rebound from the missed shot and pushed the ball up to senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who found Cobbs inside for the bucket.
On the next Spartans possession, Kravish once again gave Pennington fits, leaping up to grab the rebound, clearing out the key, moving it up the floor to Crabbe, who then hit a wide-open look from three, much to the delight of Solomon, who was cheering hard on the bench.
Kravish's big game came at an opportune time, as senior power forward Harper Kamp struggled in his 17 minutes, scoring four points on 2-of-4 shooting, though he did pull down seven rebounds.
"I think I'm playing OK, I guess," Kravish said. "Harper's always telling me that I'm getting better and better every game, so I guess that's another person's perspective on it, but I feel like for a couple games in the middle there, I struggled holding on to the ball, and just playing altogether, it seems like, but everyone's always there to pick each other up and it's just a big family. Everybody's helping each other just get better and move on."
As a team, Cal out-rebounded the Spartans (3-6) by the count of 52 to 32, mainly because of San Jose State's miserable shooting night.
After a jumper by Wil Carter tied the game at 2-2 just 1:10 into the game, the Bears went on a 15-0 run and didn't take their foot off the gas, winning their sixth straight home game this season.
"I thought we stopped moving," said San Jose State head coach George Nessman. "They just took it to us, and they deserved to kick our butt, and I'm disappointed in the way we responded to their physical play. We knew coming here, it was not going to be easy. This is a very good basketball team. But, in the same token, we definitely expected more of ourselves, and we haven't had a team shut us down like that, all season, and so it was a very frustrating night for us, overall."
Cal shot 16-for-29 from the field in the first half, and didn't miss a single three-pointer or free throw.
"I think we're playing really well together right now," said Cobbs. "Our defense was playing hard and getting stops. We were getting out on the break and getting easy buckets. I think that helped us get into rhythm more, playing half-court offense when we get open and make shots. When you get on the break, you make lay-ups for easy baskets, and that gets you in a rhythm."
For the night, Cal hit 31 of 63 from the field. The Spartans, on the other hand, shot 20.3 percent from the field on the night and 15.4 percent from three, after entering the game with a 40.0 shooting percentage from the field and a 33.8 mark from beyond the arc.
"I thought Cal just put their will on us, physically, early in the game, and out-matched us physically," Nessman said. "I think that was the biggest difference. We've been scoring in the 70s relatively easily, and they just absolutely, flat-out, got into us, physically, and we didn't respond properly."
San Jose State's biggest scoring threat -- James Kinney -- came into the game averaging 18.6 points per game and shooting 53.1 percent, but was completely stifled by Gutierrez, and went 0-for-12 from the field.
"That's what Jorge does," smiled Cobbs. "That's Jorge's whole thing. If coach gives him an assignment, he's going to do what he has to do."
Kinney had scored 30 points and nailed seven three-pointers in the Spartans' 72-66 win over Texas-San Antonio on Nov. 30, and had scored 82 points over San Jose State's last three games.
"I think they just got into him," Nessman said. "Gutierrez is a really superior defender, anyway, and I think they disrupted James' rhythm. He got some looks going forward, which he's usually pretty good at. He didn't get it to go, and I think he got a little frustrated and we're not going to win any games when James is 0-for-12. We're going to have a hard time staying in a game when he's 0-for-12, as you saw tonight."
With Kinney stifled, the Spartans turned to their next-best option in sophomore guard Keith Shamburger, but he shot just 2-for-6 from the field. Carter led San Jose State with 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting in 32 minutes.
"The main thing was to come out and they had guys on the other team who could put the ball in the hole, guys who just came off of a 30-point game, so our main thing was to stop him and stop Shamburger and I think we did that tonight, and that helped us on offense, getting down the court and getting lay-ups."
Cobbs and Gutierrez teamed up to shut down both Kinney and Shamburger, as the Bears had perhaps their best defensive performance of the season, dishing out 21 assists to just eight turnovers while forcing 10 turnovers from the Spartans.
"We can defend when we set our mind to it," Montgomery said. "But, I knew that before. I don't think there was anything new that we learned. Jorge is a good defender. We asked him to defend Kinney, who had had 26, 28 and 30 the last three games, and I thought he did a really good job of that. Jorge was bound and determined and he made it tough. If you take Kinney out, then they go to Shamburger, and I thought Justin did a good job. He knew him, and so, defensively, I thought we were good. We got them back on their heels. By defending, we were able to get out on the break, and we got some good stuff off the break. Our assist-to-turnover ratio -- particularly early -- was really good."
On the defensive glass, Cal pulled down 42 boards, while San Jose State managed just seven offensive rebounds.
Much of that was due to the long arms of Kravish, which not just changed shot angles, but also tipped rebounds out to his teammates.
"He'd have had an easy double-double had he secured some of those rebounds early," Montgomery said. "He did have 10 rebounds. I guess he needed another point, but he could have had 15 rebounds. He had his hands on an awful lot of balls, and did a good job defensively. I think Carter's a pretty good player, and [I] was worried about David defending him, but Carter took him one time and David just stayed down and waited and blocked the shot, so I thought David played very well."
Crabbe was one of three Bears to finish in double-figures in scoring for the evening, followed by Cobbs -- who started his second straight game at point guard and scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, to go along with a game-high five assists and four boards -- and Gutierrez, who finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting and a 6-for-6 day from the charity stripe.
"Justin is a good player, and he's played very well, and I think the common sense would look at the way that he's played and how he's played, and people would say that he's one of your top five players," Montgomery said of the decision to start Cobbs in place of junior Brandon Smith. "That's what we did. We went that direction, because he has played well, and I think he's earned that spot. Brandon's a key part of what we do, and we need him in that same rotation that we had Justin, but Justin is a good scorer, he's strong and he actually did a great job of running the break."
Cal out-scored San Jose State 17-0 on the fast break, with 12 of those points coming when Cobbs was on the floor.
After a Kravish block with 17:36 to play in the second half, Kamp snagged the rebound and pushed the ball up to Cobbs, who found Gutierrez on the break, who then dished to Kravish for the lay-up.
"He's strong," Montgomery said. "When he focuses, he's good. When he concentrates, and sees the floor and does what we're asking him to do, he's good, and he did that tonight. We've tried to reinforce him. Every time he did that, he drove down the middle, he kicked out on a three and it could have been another assist. It was the right play to make. He made all the right plays on the break. They were the right plays to make, and so we've reinforced that with him, and I thought he responded very well."
Cobbs then went on to notch assists on the next three Bears possessions on a lay-up by Crabbe and a jumper and a lay-up by Gutierrez.
Montgomery said that it was "certainly possible," that Cobbs could continue to start at the point in place of Smith, but he will see how things go, moving forward, with the team's next game on Sunday against Jackson State.
"He's strong, he can move his feet and he can dominate," Montgomery said. "The only issue sometimes is that he falls asleep. He loses sight of his man or he forgets where he's supposed to be, and that's where Jorge's generally pretty good, especially when he gets on a topic or a project, then he'll kind of take it personally. I think Justin is a very, very good defender. I would say he probably gets screened a little easier than I would like. He gets caught on screens sometimes, but when he wants to defend you, he can."
Playing in a season-high 18 minutes, junior Bak Bak pulled down a season-high seven rebounds.
Cal now holds an all-time 18-1 record against San Jose State, and is now 26-3 in nonconference home games under Montgomery.
Kravish's 10 rebounds were a new season high. He now has 52 boards on the season. His three blocks were also a season- and career-high.
The Spartans' 20.0-percent shooting night was the lowest allowed by the Bears this season. Cal's eight turnovers were also the fewest they've had in its nine games this season.
During the Bears' 17-2 run to open the game, Crabbe had seven points, as Cal connected on seven of its first eight shots of the game. Crabbe and Gutierrez were both 3-of-3 in that span.
The Bears' 28-point halftime lead was a season-high, surpassing the previous best of 27 against Austin Peay on Nov. 15. It was also the fourth time this season that Cal scored at least 40 points in the first 20 minutes.
Freshman walk-on Raffi Chalian scored his first collegiate basket in the game's final minutes. Chalian played four minutes and also had a rebound.