Behind a career night from redshirt junior forward Christian Behrens, the Cal men’s basketball team (10-1) notched a 78-67 victory over Eastern Washington on Friday night, marking their seventh consecutive win and Cal’s best start in 55 years.
After bringing the score to 25-24 on a jumper from junior guard Tyrone Wallace with 5:19 left in the first half, the Bears kept their feet on the pedal, refusing to relinquish the lead for the rest of the night. Wallace tallied his fourth double-double of the year, scoring 21 points, recording 11 rebounds and going three for four on 3-point attempts
But the real story of the night was Behrens, who recorded 20 points and went eight for nine from the field. Behrens, who was called for a questionable technical foul with 6:34 left in the game for hanging onto the rim, recorded Cal’s last field goal of the night on a dunk.
“Obviously, the biggest change and adjustment is my role on the team,” Behren said. “I’m playing, my teammates trust me, (and) my coaches trust me. I’m not saying the coaches last year didn’t, but at the same time, it helps my role, and that’s big.”
The Bears struggled to find a rhythm on offense out of the gate and ultimately only shot 43 percent from the field. Cal trailed by as much as seven points in the first period, starting flat after a barrage of turnovers and struggling to defend Eagle guard Tyler Harvey, who finished with a game-high 31 points. Cal lost the turnover battle (11-7) against Eastern Washington, with the Eagles garnering 10 points off turnovers for the game.
Harvey scored 10 points in the first half, including a nifty left-handed layover over sophomore forward Roger Moute a Bidias to put the Eagles up, 21-14, with 10:28 left in the first half. Harvey sank fadeaway three after fadeaway three, going 6-9 from beyond the arc. Teammate Venky Jois scored 23 points for the Eagles, with the junior forward doing most of his damage with a spin move that has helped him average 19.9 points per game this season.
“I did my best contesting his shots knowing that he would be pulling up from pretty deep.” Behrens said on guarding Harvey. “In the first half, I thought I did a good job. He didn’t get too many catches in comfortable areas, but in the second half, he got a little bit loose and started to bring the balls up the court going off screens.
Cal sophomore guard Sam Singer added a career-high 15 points for the Bears, providing a lift for the Bears after senior forward David Kravish and sophomore forward Jordan Mathews got into some early foul trouble. The Bears entered halftime with a 37-26 lead with the help of a 25-7 run to close out the first period.
“You never know when you are going to get the next win. You have to appreciate them, value them and understand how you got them and try to get another one,” said Cal coach Cuonzo Martin. “They value each other on both sides of the floor, allowing the team to be successful. Just a great win for our guys.”