Cal basketball moves to 17-0 at Haas Pavilion, wins sixth straight as the Bears finish off pesky UCLA thanks to three-point ace Jabari Bird

Cal continues its hot streak with a 75-63 win over UCLA in a game that was never truly in-hand, despite a 13-1 Bears run to start things off.

BERKELEY -- California started off Thursday on a 13-1 run, as visiting UCLA failed ot hit a field goal for the first 4:53 of the game, but, even with that handicap, the Bruins didn't go down easily. UCLA got as close as four points during the second half, but the Bears never gave up the lead in front of a sellout crowd of 11,858 at Haas Pavilion, winning their sixth in a row to the tune of 75-63.

"This is a team that really scores the ball, and the last four games, they're shooting over 49% from the field," said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. "The guys did a great job defending the three-point line."

While Cal held UCLA to 2-of-9 from three, and 26-of-64 (40.6%) from the field, Bears junior Jabari Bird notched his third 20-point game in his last five games, going 7-of-12 from the floor for 20 points, hitting 5-of-8 from three-point land and pulling down three rebounds, adding a block and a steal.

Outside of the Washington game, Bird is averaging 18.6 points on 64.5% shooting during the past six games, and he's 20-for-33 from three-point range.

"When he's making shots, we're a tough team to beat," Martin says of Bird.

In three of the last four games, Bird has hit his first three-pointer. In those games, he's 12-of-19 from beyond the arc. Cal, as a team, went 8-of-22 from beyond the three-point arc as a team.

The Bears now head into Sunday's game with a chance to go undefeated for the second time in history at home.

"It would be historical. Cal hasn't done that for a long time, and it would be big for us to get that done in front of our home crowd," Bird said, about possibly finishing 18-0 at home with a win over USC on Sunday. It would be the only time since the 1959-60 season that Cal would be undefeated at home. "We've got to come in prepared for practice, get ready for Sunday ... We're starting to hit our stride going into March."

"History is what it is, but we have to protect our home court," Martin said.

UCLA came in with two of the Pac-12's best three-point shooters in Aaron Holiday (41%) and Isaac Hamilton (40.9%), with Bryce Alford shooting 36.5% from beyond the arc. The Bruins finished the night 2-for-9 from three-point range, with Holiday going 0-for-1, Hamilton 0-for-2 and Alford 2-for-5.

"There’s a lot of potency to what they do but I still think the key to what they do is defensively," said Bruins coach Steve Alford. "Offensively, yes they’ve got some weapons but it’s defensively where I think they win games."

Senior point guard Tyrone Wallace finished the night with his ninth career double-double (and second of the season), making four free throws at the end of the game to help ice the win (4-of-6 overall at the line), but he went 5-of-14 from the floor on the evening. "That stat line will have Tyrone playing at a high level for a long time," said Martin, of Wallace's 10 rebounds, six assists and 14 points. "He also played one of the best defensive games I've seen him play."

Wallace's four free throws helped improve a dreadful night at the line for the Bears (20-8, 10-5 in Pac-12), who went a collective 9-of-19 outside of Wallace.

"Oh, yeah, we're going to shoot a lot," freshman Jaylen Brown said of free throws in practice for the next few days, after being told the Bears went 13-of-25 at the line.

With 16 minutes to go in the first half, UCLA (15-13, 6-9) went into zone, and despite a Brown three immediately thereafter, Cal proceded to miss its next seven shots. Martin called a time out to "settle guys down, and get locked in on the defensive side of the ball."

The Bears didn't hit another basket inside the arc until an Ivan Rabb lay-up with 4:20 left in the first stanza ,and then began to rain down three pointers -- including three from Bird and another from Brown. The Bruins hung tough, though, pulling to within five points with 2:24 left in the half on a lay-up and an and-one free throw by Thomas Welsh

"We had great looks, and once we did hit, they were big for us, and UCLA did give us different looks on defense, but we handled it well," Bird said.

That zone defense that stymied the Bears showed up in the stat line: UCLA had an 18-6 advantage on points in the paint in the first half, while Rabb had just three shot attempts.

Big men weren't completely absent, though, as Kameron Rooks pulled down four rebounds in the first half, including one of the Bears' six offensive boards.

"A lot of things he does, they don't show up in the stat sheet," Brown said of Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh. "They box out, hands up. They did a better job on Tony Parker in the second half. They do all the dirty work, get all the bumps and bruises. I know it's not easy to do what they do, and we don't take them for granted."

The Bruins went on a 7-0 run at the end of the half, from 4:20 to 2:24, broken up only by a floater on the right side of the lane with seven seconds left on the shot clock by Wallace, who went 2-of-7 from the floor in the first half, though he did pull down five of Cal's 15 rebounds. 

Cal was able to turn four turnovers from the Bruins into 11 points in the first half, while turning the ball over just three times -- once on a held ball trap at mid-court by Bird.

Bryce Alford had an awful start, hitting 1 of his first 7 shots (two points in the first 24 minutes), and turning the ball over twice, including the Bruins' first turnover in the second half that led to a second straight Wallace basket. Wallace had gotten the ball from Kameron Rooks after an in-bound, and hit a baseline jumper, but the clock had started three seconds early. An official review counted the bucket. "The second half had a weird start to it," Steve Alford said. "We had a 10-minute delay because of clock issues. I thought we had a shot clock violation. Not only was it not a shot clock violation, they got two points out of it. There was a lot of disruptive flow to the first four minutes and we didn’t handle that well."

In contrast, Bird went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc to start the first half, and added a poke-away steal that led to a Brown three-pointer in the second minute of the game.

"We're more difficult ot guard, especially when people are playing zone the whole game, people like Jabari and Jordan are X-factors when they're hitting shots," Brown said.

Alford finally got off the schnide with a three at 15:21 in the second, and that's when the Bruins started to reel Cal in.

The Bears were up by as many as 15 in the second, thanks to a three by Bird from the left corner just as the Bruins went back to the zone at 17:28, but UCLA hit seven of its first 10 shots in the second half.

That run closed the lead to 10 points, and with Alford's second three of the half with 12:00 to go, the Bruins got to within seven, as Cal's three-point attack began to slide. Jordan Mathews -- who came in 12-of-33 from long distance over the past five games -- went 1-for-6 from beyond the arc, including missing his first two of the second half as UCLA climbed back into the game.

Alford would finish 4-of-13 from the field, 2-of-5 from three-point range and a very uncharacteristic 5-of-9 from the free throw line, for a team-high-tying 15 points. Center Tony Parker also had 15, on 6-of-11 shooting, with seven rebounds.

With just under 10 minutes left, Welsh was doubled on the right block by Rabb and Rooks, has to had outside. With the shot clock under 10, the supremely athletic Hamilton (averaging 18.5 points per game in Pac-12 play) pushed off of Rooks, to no avail, as Singer recovered the rebound and went coast-to-coast for the lay-in, at least for the moment giving Cal some momentum. Singer, though, committed his third foul on the next play, on Alford, who hit one of two, keeping the deficit manageable.

Wallace then found Rabb inside, but he was pushed off the block by Gyorgy Goloman, and his shot fell short. Wallace then stole the ball from Alford in the mid-0court, and was fouled on a dunk atttempt, crashing into the dance team along the baseline. Wallace, though, missed both free throw attempts, making the Bears 8-for-19 from the charity stripe.

A two-handed dunk by Brown got the Cal lead momentarily back to 10, but the Bruins would not go away. A jumper by Bolden on the left wing got UCLA within four, and a questioable three shot by Mathews nearly resulted in a trey by Alford, but he missed an open corner three. Brown sliced through the defense again for a lay-in, getting the lead back to six with 4:58 left, but the Bruins kept hanging on.

A rare Singer turnover, while he was looking at Martin, resulted in a one-handed jam for Holiday, the UCLA freshman averaging 10.5 points per game and 1.48 steals, with 3:35 to go, making it 63-57.

Then, the Bears started finding openings. A short three by Bird resulted in a Rooks offensive rebound and a Rabb slam. A foul to Alford -- shooting 84.7% on the season from the free throw line -- resulted in a split at the charity stripe, and then Bird hit a runner in the lane to get the lead back to nine with 2:28 to go.

Rooks and Rabb bottled up Parker down low, changing his shot angle and resulting in a miss. They trapped him enough that Bird was able to control the rebound on the perimeter, and seconds later, he came open on the left wing for a three and buried it.

"He's been here for a while, and he's been waiting for his time to emerge," Brown said. "He's capable. it's just a matter of him putting it on the floor."

Bird is averaging over 16 points in his last six games.

"I just want to win as many games as possible at the end of the year," Bird said. "Jaylen's so aggressive going to the rim, getting dunks and lay-ups. Guys can't stop him. We're just shooting like there are no guys out there guarding us."

Cal is now tied for third in the Pac-12, and is one win back of first-place Oregon. Utah is second, a half game back, after trouncing Arizona State 81-46.

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