Bears hand Coppin State ninth loss to remain undefeated at home

BERKELEY -- Jaylen Brown dishes out five assists to lead the Bears, who score their biggest win of the season against Coppin State.

BERKELEY -- For a game that saw 121 total shots, California's 84-51 win over Coppin State -- which had just come off of an overtime loss to San Francisco on Friday night -- seemed to be very slow-paced, partly because the Eagles shot a dismal 15-for-62 from the field. 

The Bears (9-2) bested their largest margin of victory this year by one, having beaten Rice by 32 earlier this season.

"You don't get too many chances to get in as a walk-on, and when you make a shot and get such a big cheer,  and you look at the bench, with everybody celebrating, it was pretty awesome," said Nick Kerr, the son of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who hit back-to-back three-pointers in the waning moments of the game to give him a season-high six points on 2-of-2 shooting.

"They're walk-ons, but they're talented players, so when they got in, I knew they were going to make something happen," freshman Ivan Rabb said of Kerr, Brenden Glapion and Cole Welle. It was a game of runs in front of 9,347 at Haas Pavilion, with Cal starting the game on a 12-0 run after an opening three-pointer by Coppin State, and then a 9-0 Eagles run, followed by a 12-0 run by the Bears. With 7:35 left in the first half, though, at the under-eight time out, the two teams had hit the skids, making a combined two of their last 17 shots.

"We held them to 24 percent so that was good," said head coach Cuonzo Martin. "First half, we shot the free throws very well. Didn't shoot as well in the second half. I thought we did a solid job, especially coming off final exams. We want to continue get better against the zone. I'd be very surprised if we saw a zone against Virginia, but overall, I thought our guys did a solid job. We've got to continue to move, pass, fake, misdirect and be aggressive within that zone. Overall, good effort."

With 3:28 left, curiously, Cal had out-rebounded the Eagles 24-12, but Coppin State had three more shots, while the Bears had just one more turnover. But, from that point on, Cal went 6-of-7 from the floor, closing out the first half on a 9-0 run.

"Defensively, we were outstanding -- we got steals, deflections, and it helped us get out in transition," Kerr said.

A two-handed slam dunk in transition by Jaylen Brown to make it 69-44 with 6:30 left was one of two plays to get any kind of a rise out of the crowd in the second half, save for a steal and coast-to-coast bucket by Tyrone Wallace, who finished the possession with a Euro-step lay-up. Wallace finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and 2-of-4 at the free throw line.

Cal was much better in transition in the second half, utilizing a full and three-quarter press.

"It's good for our guys to get used to pressing," Martin said. "Coppin State wants to get up and down, to score 100 points, and I thought we did a solid job, especially in the second half. They have to get used to it, especially after a made basket. Rebound, and sprint back on defense. It's very important that our two guards up front put pressure on them, and allow our big guys to get back."

Brown, for his part, played far more under control than he has in the past six games, drawing his only foul with 58 seconds left on a controversial charge. Despite turning the ball over three times before the break, he had six points, four assists, two blocks and three rebounds.

"He didn't get a charge, well, I guess they called that a foul," Martin said. "He was aggressive, he was active, when you get two fouls in the first half, it's hard to get into a flow. It's hard to play the way you want to play, and you get passive defensively. He's not as aggressive as he'd like to be, but you can see in practice that he's getting good at moving his feet and being aggressive, doing it without fouling."

In the second half, Brown was stronger with the ball, turning the ball over just once. The freshman -- who had tallied four or more personal fouls in five of his last six games -- went 4-of-10 shooting with six rebounds and a career-high five assists, and finished with three fouls.

"He's a very unselfish player, and he's one of the best in transition," Martin said. "When a team's pressing, you want him to get over the top, because he can do a lot of things for us. I thought he played a lot better. He's a talented basketball player, and continues to get better. He impacts the game with rebounds, free throws, assists -- he does a lot of things. You have to identify him, because he's a physical presence."

His classmate Rabb was a force in the first half, scoring 11 points on 2-of-2 shooting and 7-for-9 at the free throw line, as the Bears were able to feed him inside against a loose 2-3 zone by Coppin State.

"We did everything coach asked us to do on the defensive side of the ball; we definitely defended at a high level," Rabb said. "I've always been comfortable playing offense, and coach Martin wants us to be comfortable. He doesn't want us thinking too much out there."

Rabb also pulled down four rebounds in the first half, and added a block and a steal, which led to a transition three by Jordan Mathews, who went 3-of-9 shooting, with all of his baskets coming from beyond the three-point arc.

Next up, the Bears fly out to Washington, D.C., on Sunday, to face No. 8 Virginia on Christmas Day.

"They go to the tournament every year, so we know it's going to be a battle," said Rabb, who finished with a team-best 13 points. 

"Good team, good team," Martin said of the Cavaliers, who beat Villanova earlier on Saturday. "You face teams that play a pack-line, you have to make shots from the perimeter. You have to ready to receiver the double teams in the post. The way they defend, it's not just their defense, but their offense -- they take 19 seconds off the clock. It's mentally taxing on you. You have to execute your offense and be strong with the ball."

I the first half, Martin said, four balls were knocked out of Cal's hands, and the Bears committed 12 turnovers on the game.

"We have to be stronger with the ball, plain and simple," Martin said.

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