Nick Kerr and Ivan Rabb break down Cal's win over the zoning Coppin State

BERKELEY -- Nick Kerr gets his moment in the sun, and we dissect Cal's win over Coppin State, from the press to attacking the zone. Plus, Cuonzo Martin evaluates the performance of freshman Jaylen Brown.

BERKELEY -- California senior Nick Kerr came to Berkeley from San Diego in part because that's where his family -- Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Cal volleyball libero Maddy -- has found a home, but also because he just wanted to be on a winning team, and learn the art of coaching. On Saturday, he was more than just a warm body, getting into the game with 2:46 to go, and the Bears already up by 29 against visiting Coppin State.

After a rebound and a free throw by fellow walk-on Cole Welle, and then a steal and ill-advised half-dunk-half-lay-up attempt by the same, Kerr hit back-to-back three-pointers off of assists from Brandon Chauca -- who played six minutes on Filipino Heritage Night -- much to the delight of his bench.

"It felt good, not only for Nick, but for Cole, and [Brenden] Glapion in the game, as well," said freshman Ivan Rabb, who finished with a team-high 13 points on 3-of-4 shooting and 7-of-9 from the free-throw line, with nine rebounds, one assist, one turnover, one block and one steal. "They're walk-ons, but they're actually really talented players. I knew when they got in that they were going to make something happen. Nick knocked down two shots, Glap got a bucket, Cole got a steal, and got a few free throws. They all played pretty well."

"With all the walk-ons, we have nothing to lose," Kerr said. "The game has been decided. We're just out there, playing and having fun, and you don't really think about being cold. You really just want to go make a play or make a play for your teammate and have fun."

As for Welle's misadventure at the rim, Rabb said the Bears won't let him forget it any time soon.

"Oh, man, I'm glad you reminded us," Rabb said to raucous laughter, as the post-game presser ended. "We haven't talked about that yet."

"I wanted him to dunk it," Kerr said. "From my angle, it looked like he could have just got the hand up a little bit. He said he was cold. He said he was too cold to get up there, but it looked like he was up there. He said his legs were too tired; he was too stiff."

Getting Defensive

The Bears and Eagles were tied at 12-12 nearly six minutes into the game, thanks to a 9-0 run by Coppin State, but a dunk by Rabb set off a 10-0 run, highlighted by very tight defense played by Sam Singer and Roger Moute a Bidias, who showed off his length with two rebounds, a block and two free throws within just over a minute of entering the game. "I thought, defensively, we did a good job, with our field goal percentage defense holding them to 24 percent, so that was good," said head coach Cuonzo Martin. "I thought our guys did a solid job. We've got to continue to move, pass, fake, misdirect and be aggressive within that zone."

Kerr, ever the son of a coach, and of course, an aspiring one himself, offered his assessment of how the Bears did against the 2-3 zone of Coppin State, which, more often than not, saw one side sag in off of a wing shooter.

"I thought, for the most part, we did a good job handling the zone," Kerr said. "We moved the ball, got penetration, and obviously, defensively, we were outstanding. We got deflections, steals, and that really let us get out in transition. I thought that was where we made a big jump today."

Indeed, Cal scored 24 of its 84 points on fast breaks, tallying five steals and nine blocks. It was the Bears' second game in a row with nine or more blocks, after tallying 10 against Saint Mary's a week ago.

"We did everything that coach asked us to do on the defensive side of the ball, and that was the biggest thing, because in the past, we would let some teams stay in the game with us, but today we definitely defended at a high level," Rabb said. "The goal was to build off of what we did against Saint Mary's, to play with tremendous energy, to play together, and we did good on that."

Rabb had 13 shots against the Gaels last time out, and only tallied four on Saturday, with just two in the second half, though he was a constant presence in the low post and emabled the Bears to attack the zone from the inside out.

"I've always been comfortable playing offense so far this season," said Rabb, who's averaging 12.7 points per game this season. "I think I came out just like I did every other game, just letting the game come to me. Today, I think I shot nine free throws and made seven, so that means I'm doing a good job of attacking. Coach Martin wants us to be comfortable. He doesn't want us thinking too much out there ... It's good that I knocked some [free throws] down, because those are easy points."

Coming into the game, the Bears were hitting 65.1% from the charity stripe, second-to-last in the Pac-12. Against Coppin State, the Bears were 22-of-33 from the line (66.7%), with the starters (Rabb, Brown, Rooks, Wallace and Jordan Mathews) going 15-for-20.

Talking It Out

Following a too-close win over Incarnate Word, the Bears held a players-only meeting that rattled enough heads into place for Cal to score a win over Saint Mary's. The effects of that meeting were certainly felt on Saturday, Kerr said.

"I hope it carries over," Kerr said.

"I think it did play a big part," Rabb said. "It was such a serious time, and the way we want the season to pan out, it was important for us to have a talk, and it definitely brought our energy level up."

Things "definitely" feel different, Rabb said, since the talk.

Pressing Matters

Defensively, Cal employed a heavy three-quarters and full-court press for much of the second half, generating three steals and nine second-half turnovers by the Eagles.

"We've spent a lot of time with that," Martin said. "We've got a couple different ones that we use, and I think it's good for our guys just to get used to it, to really get used to pressing, moving your feet and doing it without fouling, and just really taking time off the clock. Coppin State, in most cases, they want to try to get 100 points. They want to get up and down. It wasn't necessarily slow those guys down, but more for ourselves, moving forward." Up next for the Bears, of course, is No. 8 Virginia, which beat No. 12 Villanova 86-75 and plays at a more deliberate pace. Given that Cal's offense is at its best when getting points in transition and on the fast break, they're going to need to find a way to generate turnovers against the Cavaliers when they travel to Charlottesville on Christmas Day.

"I thought we did a solid job," Martin said, "especially in the second half. It's something we have to get used to, after we make baskets, to get in position. You teach Ivan and Jaylen [Brown] to rebound, and Kam (Kameron Rooks) to rebound and sprint back to get back on defense, so it gets set up. It's very important that our two guards up front put pressure on the ball, and allow those guys to do their jobs."

Notably, Virginia -- the No. 1 team in the nation in the pythagorean rating used by Ken Pommeroy -- has had touble with the press at times.

"We'll do it throughout the season, without a doubt," Martin said. "We'd like to do it more. Who knows? It might just become a part of what we do. We definitely want to do it more, to really put pressure on the other team, to be aggressive, to be assertive, but also to create energy. That's why I like it."

"They all seemed pretty energized to me," Rabb said of his teammates. As for the upcoming tilt against the Cavaliers, Rabb said that "they're definitely a very talented team, well-coached, but at the end of the day, coach Martin is going to prepare us for what we have ahead of us. We're just going to crack down on that film, learn and go out there and play a great game."

Rabb has seen Virginia play "a couple of times," and that game has been looming on the schedule for a team that's so far not lived up to a preseason No. 14 ranking.

"That's one of the biggest teams in the country," Rabb said. "They're well-coached, and they go into the Tournament every year. We definitely know it's going to be a battle, and now it's time to perform."

Sharing is Caring

Two of Cal's five steals came from point guard Tyrone Wallace, who finished the game with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, with four rebounds, but only one assist. The senior came into the game averaging 5.2 assists per game.

The last time Wallace had fewer than two assists in a game was in the loss to Richmond. He was held to fewer than two assists twice last season -- against Arizona State and Washington State.

As a team, Cal has tallied assists on 46% of field goals this season, but on Friday, the Bears had assists on 16 of 27 field goals (59.3%).

Five of those belonged to Brown, who set a career high with the five helpers, a marked departure from his season average of 1.1 per game. Earlier this season, Brown went four straight games with no assists, and has five zero-assist games on the season. He also cut down on his fouls for the second straight game -- after five games of four or more fouls, he's only been whistled five times total in his last two games combined.

“The thing about Jaylen for me is that I want him to stay aggressive," Martin said. "He’s a very unselfish player and sometimes I really want him to attack more. I want him to really look to the rim more to score the basketball and just play. But, he’s one of the best in transition, when he gets the ball, especially in the team press. We want to get him at the top of the half court area to go over the top and let him play because he can make decisions, he can finish strong, and he can make the shots and do a lot of things for us.

"He can find the shooters, but I think he played a lot better. Again, he’s a talented basketball player and he continues to get better with his overall floor game, but he’s a guy that impacts a game with rebounds, free throws, making shots, big plays, assists and steals. He does a lot of things because you have to identify him because he’s a physical presence when he’s attacking the rim. Two guys on him, and he makes the right decisions. I thought he played well."

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