BERKELEY -- For the first 32 minutes of Tuesday night’s 66-52 win over Seattle – a game in which it was favored by 22 – California slept-walked. But, with 8:32 remaining in the game, senior point guard Tyrone Wallace batted the ball out of the hands of 7-foot-3 Aaron Menzies, right to freshman Ivan Rabb. Rabb pushed it back up to Wallace, who took the ball the length of the court and threw down a right-handed slam.
Cal was spurred to a 17-2 run, as the Redhawks went 1-of-9 from the field. Wallace scored 11 of those 17 points, while Jordan Mathews -- who started the game 1-for-6, and had four turnovers to just one assist -- scored five, and finished with 12 points on the night. The Bears hit eight of their final nine shots of the game.
“I was just trying to make a play," Wallace said. "At that point, we were down by three, he was holding the ball over his head, and wasn’t paying attention. I was able to get the steal and get us into the break. I feel I’m the senior, guys need me to make plays. The game’s close, you’ve got to deliver. I was trying to go out there and be aggressive.”
The Bears (5-2) once again struggled against a zone -- this time a 3-2 variety -- as they did against East Carolina, when they had 15 turnovers. Cal had 14 turnovers on Tuesday.
"I think the biggest key is that we have to be able to stick that ball inside," Martin said. "Don't be hesitant to make that pass to the flashing guy. You still have to be aggressive, get the ball to the guy flashing. You miss a couple shots, I thought Jabari [Bird], he missed three in a row in the first half, and I thought he passed up the fourth in the corner by their bench. He has to shoot that. Those are good shots. Those are shots we practice. You have to be aggressive and ready to shoot."
That said, the Bears did shoot -- 1-for-10 from three to start. Shooting is one thing, scoring is another.
Bird -- who was expected to be a lights-out shooter from beyond the arc this year -- had gone 23-of-49 from the field and 5-for-21 from three headed into the night, and started the evening 0-for-3 from beyond the arc (his first three shots from the floor), before draining a trio of three-pointers before the half to give Cal a nine-point lead. After his 0-for-3 start, he hit 4-of-7, and tallied two of the Bears' 10 blocks, along with another that he teamed up on with Rooks. Bird also added five rebounds.
Until Cal proves it can do more than just pass around the edges against the zone, and proves that it can hit perimeter shots with regularity (three-pointers from the corners against a 3-2 zone, especially), find a Rabb flashing at the high post, or another big body underneath, or get dependable, under-control drives from Jaylen Brown (who left in the second half with four fouls, with 11 points, 7 rebounds and his third zero-assist game in a row), teams will continue to zone against the Bears.
"This was good for us to go against a zone, a different type of zone, because you see it," Martin said. "When you don't see it in practice, at that level, it's hard to duplicate that. We've seen it enough, we practice it more in practice, and I think it's good for our guys."
What saved Cal was defense, in the person of Kameron Rooks. Though he had just four points and six rebounds, he played a key 29 minutes that, Martin said, helped the Bears stay out of foul trouble. Rooks did not play at all last time out, against Richmond.
“He played huge for us tonight, man," Wallace said. "Kameron, player of the game. He didn’t play last game, but he was ready.”
“Defense, toughness, presence around the rim," Martin said of what Rooks brings. "It takes a physical toll on Ivan to bang. He doesn’t have to be that guy the whole time, and it keeps him out of foul trouble, as well ... Leaving Australia, I thought King [Kingsley Okoroh] would be the guy at that position. He went down for three weeks, and now he’s getting back to form. What happens is, you play a lot of smaller teams, it’s so tough to get those guys into the fold.
“You've got 500 pounds sitting on the bench, those guys should be playing," Martin continued. "I don’t know if it’s permanent. I like the way Kam’s playing. He’s earned it. It’s not a case of trying something different. This is an easy decision. It’s hard taking Jabari out of the lineup.”