After a controversial charge on guard Tyrone Wallace with seven minutes left in the game, Cal forced a miss on the other end, corralled the defensive rebound and found the streaking Wallace in transition for a bucket plus the horn. This sparked a 25-8 run to end the game after Cal went down three points, with Wallace accounting for 12 of the points in that span.
Stumbling after a pair of losses to underwhelming squads at the Las Vegas Invitational last week, Cal men’s basketball (5-2) regained its footing with a hard-earned victory against Seattle (2-4), 66-52. Despite a slow start, Wallace led the Bears with a near triple-double, registering 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
The Redhawks held Cal to 40 percent from the field by overloading the strong side to prevent drives from forward Jaylen Brown and Wallace. Cal got several good looks from behind the arc, but its wing shooters could not consistently make them until the closing minutes. Seattle forced the Bears to beat them with jump shots, which kept it competitive for the majority of the game.
Brown was aggressive from the opening tip but missed his jumpers to start one-of-six from the field. His trouble shooting the ball was infectious, as the Bears could not get their shots to fall early on — at the rim and from distance.
“As long as you have wide open looks, that’s good,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. “I think that’s the biggest key with a zone, you have to be aggressive and assertive. You have to move the ball, shoot and make plays.”
With Cal weathering a scoring drought, guard Jabari Bird — who came off the bench for the first time this season — checked in for Brown six minutes into the game. But he could not provide Martin the injection of offense the team needed, as he missed his first three shots from the field. All were good looks from behind the arc but each shot clanked off the rim as his confidence dwindled with every brick.
Unfortunately for the Redhawks, Bird found his shooting stroke and confidence late in the first half, draining his next four shots with the first first three coming from distance. He was fouled on the second and had an opportunity at a four-point play, while the last was a floater to end the half and extend the Cal lead, 32-23.
Seattle came out in a zone to start the second half after holding Cal to 39 percent from the field in the first half. The Bears broke it from time to time, finding shooters in the weakside corner for three-pointers, but they continued to struggle from distance.
10 minutes into the second half, the Redhawks got within one point off a three-pointer by guard Montroop Clair and took the lead on the next possession, 41-40, on a midrange jumper. They extended their lead the following play off of another three-pointer by Clair but Wallace responded with fastbreak dunk on the other end off of a steal by forward Ivan Rabb.
“I was just trying to make a play for my team,” Wallace said. “We were down by three, and I saw an opportunity to get the steal and start the break. I’m the senior and guys look to me to make plays. With the game close, I was just trying to be aggressive.”
The Bears shortly regained the lead after dialing up their defensive intensity and finally breaking the Seattle zone. Cal only further extended the lead in the closing minutes of the game as the Bears skied for every rebound opportunity, were quicker to every loose ball and challenged every shot at the rim. Guard Sam Singer pushed the lead to as many as 16 points, 66-50, with a minute left off of a three-pointer on the wing. Bird followed this up by blocking a shot into the third row to end the game.
“(It was a) good, hard-fought win,” Martin said. “It was one of those games where you try and get the residue off of you. (Wallace) stepped up and made plays at the end.”