When UC Irvine came to Berkeley on Wednesday, the Cal men’s basketball team was eyeing its second straight victory to start the season. Without the likes of three of its best players in Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Grant Mullins, the game was very evenly matched and neither the Bears nor the Anteaters feasted on their opponents. The game finished 75-65, in favor of Cal after overtime at Haas Pavilion.
The first half was highlighted by Charlie Moore for the Bears, who, in a lineup largely devoid of talent, was a lone bright spot, directing the offense and finishing the half with 11 points on 4-8 shooting, including two three-pointers.
Without the three crucial pieces, the Moore-led offense was able to compete for roughly the first 10 minutes before coming to a lull, either due to fatigue (possibly) or more likely missed shots. Ten lead changes in the first 12 minutes kept the fans entertained. But after Cal took a 13-12 lead on a Moore jumper on an out-of-bounds play, the Bears offense stagnated, while the Anteaters continued to roll.
Irvine finished the half with seven of 10 players scoring, having torched the Bears on the pick and roll. Anteater guards Max Hazzard and Jaron Martin were consistent options, dominating the Cal big men, with Martin weaving through the defense and Hazzard draining 2-3 three-pointers.
Cal centers Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh struggled to keep with the ball, and Irvine took advantage of their mobility ─ or lack thereof ─ on high screens while head coach Cuonzo Martin questionably went for a twin towers lineup. Notably, Okoroh logged 10 scoreless minutes with three turnovers and two fouls, as the Bears headed to the locker room down 31-23.
“Just settle down,” Cuonzo Martin told the Bears at halftime. “We had to defend at a high level. I didn’t think we did a solid job defending. Offensively, I didn’t think we moved the ball well.”
Cal came out in the second half with more of the same, as Irvine scored on its first two possessions ─ with both buckets coming from the 5-foot-10 Jaron Martin ─ while Cal missed its first shot, and the Anteaters took a 36-23 lead.
A solid defensive possession with 17:36 left, however, brought some life into the crowd, and Moore hit a runner in the lane on the ensuing possession to cut the lead to single digits at 36-28. Hazzard and Jaron Martin kept the Anteaters in the lead, but the Bears’ stifling defense — for which they have been known under Cuonzo Martin — came to life in the second half.
Tight pressure, along with the quick hands of Roger Moute a Bidias and Sam Singer, forced a few loose balls and empty Irvine possessions. With Moore keeping his hot shooting going and Rooks finally hitting some shots in the low post, the Bears cut the lead to 52-50 with 7:38 left.
From there, the rest of the game was best categorized by a Moore-versus-Jaron Martin showdown that went to the wire. Moore scored 10 of the next points for the Bears, while Jaron Martin scored seven in that same time.
Cal called timeout down 62-60 with 36 seconds left. Cuonzo Martin drew up a pick and roll leading to a Moore layup, which missed, but Rooks was able to tip in. A stout defensive possession by the Bears, along with a favorable non-call, forced overtime.
The Bears came out strong in the extra five-minute period, and free throws by Moore and a three from Stephen Domingo put the Bears up seven with less than a minute to play, effectively sealing the win.
“Last game, I was pretty much getting a feel,” Moore said. “My teammates helped me out today, just telling me to stay aggressive and not worry about the misses.”
Moore finished with 38 points, a freshman scoring record, passing Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s 33 in 1995.
“Probably one of the better wins of my coaching career, just to see guys compete and battle and not make excuses,” said Cuonzo Martin. “I thought the guys did a great job adjusting in the second half, getting open and finding ways to win.”