BERKELEY -- After pulling down 16 and 17 boards in his last two games, and not coming home with the Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, California senior Richard Solomon hit the floor on Monday with a purpose, and within the first 4:18, he had seven of the Bears' 12 points, as well as three boards.
The 6-foot-11 forward powered Cal to a 75-45 win over Southern Utah, playing just 20 minutes, piling up 14 points, seven boards, three blocks and two steals as head coach Mike Montgomery emptied the bench by the end of the first half.
"I would love to show up with this every night," Solomon said. "You've just got to take what the other team gives you, offensively and defensively, and just playing harder puts you in better spots to be more active and get rebounds, block shots and get steals -- playing harder and just being more active."
Solomon was dominant inside for the third game in a row, directing a defense that forced three shot clock violations by the overmatched Thunderbirds, who shot 17-for-58 from the field and 7-for-17 from three-point range.
"We substituted a lot early. It seemed pretty obvious that they were a little bit out-matched," Montgomery said. "We could've stayed with a real tight rotation and we probably would have solved the zone but we were a little surprised that they played zone. In the two other games they played, they didn't play any zone at all. But if you had watched us the other night, you're probably going to try a zone. We've got to learn to attack the zone better, that's part of the learning process. We're not very good at getting the ball into the paint. Their inside guys, that's where their veterans are. The inside guys are pretty tough, they're big strong kids. Their inexperience is on the perimeter."
With 11:44 to go in the first half, Montgomery was displeased with the way that four of his players on the floor -- Jordan Mathews, Ricky Kreklow, Sam Singer, Roger Moute a Bidias and Kreklow – were playing, even though the Bears were up by 26. He promptly subbed them out for Bird, Wallace, Cobbs and Kravish. The only constant on the floor was Solomon.
"Not playing hard enough. I think we're trying to establish a certain level of play, and we've had a little trouble with it," Montgomery said. "Against Oakland, we didn't have it, and we almost got beat. I want to play the game the right way all the time – play hard and don't worry too much about who it is you're playing. We get a little bit lax sometimes if we don't feel threatened."
"I couldn't tell you what the reason was for it, but there's those moments when that's what's got to happen," said Kravish, who finished with eight rebounds and nine points, with two blocks and two steals in 22 minutes. "Sub out bunch of guys, everyone not playing hard, it gets the message across, and he's 100-percent correct. That's what you've got to do."
Solomon showed off his athleticism early in the second half, as he followed up a Jayson Cheesman miss inside with a hard-fought board, then pushed the ball up to Justin Cobbs, then Tyrone Wallace, who found Cobbs back up top for the pass inside to Solomon, who put a nifty spin-move on Cheesman for the bucket. 14 seconds later, Solomon danced around midcourt to corral a pass from Cobbs, turning it into a lay-up and giving the Bears a 41-20 lead.
"I'm more focused coming out," Solomon said. "I'm trying to focus on playing hard. I'm trying to take every possession like it's my last possession. I want to play hard. I want to be efficient, and I just want to get better – individually and collectively."
That collective effort was a main point of emphasis for Montgomery. When asked about Wallace's bounce-back, 15-point day, the Bears head coach almost bristled. He said that "nobody" needs to have double digit points on any given night for the team to succeed.
"That's the problem," Montgomery said. "It doesn't matter. It matters how many points we have, not how many points I have. It's ‘What can I do to help the team win. That's where we've got to go – I can board the ball, I can guard this guy; give me that guy, he's their best player, I'll shut him down. Everybody's got a role to play on a team, and that's what we've got to develop and figure out, and it changes from game to game. Tyrone was able to get to the basket today, he was aggressive, and that was great. He was able to do that. Next game, they might say, ‘We can't let Tyrone do this,' so somebody else has got to do it. You've got to understand and be interchangeable out there."
Coming off his big performance on Friday, freshman Jabari Bird kicked the proceedings off with a three-pointer, but was largely quiet after that, finishing with eight points on 1-for-3 shooting and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. Instead, it was Wallace lighting it up in the backcourt, with a game-high 15 points and four boards, while Cobbs was an assists machine.
"I challenged him late," Montgomery said. "He gets worried about not getting shots or feeling like he's not doing anything, and I said, ‘Get 10 assists,' and he ended up with eight in 20 minutes."
With just under 10 minutes left, Cobbs had seven assists – one short of Southern Utah's team total. The Thunderbirds finished with 12 helpers, while Cobbs finished the night with eight, scoring six points on 2-of-5 shooting, with a rebound and a steal as he mostly played the role of facilitator.
With Wallace having such a hot shooting hand, he was left to his own devices at the two, while Singer played the backup point and dished out two assists, while pulling down four rebounds in 15 minutes.
Kreklow was a sharpshooter from long-range, hitting his first trey from right in front of the Southern Utah bench with 12:22 left in the first period to put the Bears up, 18-4. Kreklow next got on the board just under six minutes into the second period, draining a three to put Cal up by 22 points, after the Thunderbirds had gotten as close as 17 just over a minute and a half before. The Bears would never lead by less than 20 points after that, as Kreklow finished the game 3-for-6 for nine points – all from beyond the three-point arc.
Monday marked the first time that forward Christian Behrens stepped on the court in a game since Dec. 22, 2012, after missing most of last season with his second ACL surgery.
Behrens shot 0-for-1 from the field, but finished with a point on a late free throw, and pulled down two rebounds in seven minutes, as the Bears out-rebounded the Thunderbirds, 39-34.
Every Cal player but one had at least two points or one rebound.
The Solo Show
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