Before he sat down for a month with a sprained toe at the end of preseason workouts, Ivan Rabb had been slowly honing and crafting, whittling and forming a new, old weapon: The three-point shot.
Rabb toyed with the three as a senior at Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, but had only taken two this season -- one miss in each of California's previous two games -- after taking (and making) one in 2015-16. Within the first 10 minutes of play on Sunday against Arizona State, Rabb hit both three-pointers he took, en route to a double-double in the first half (he finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds before all was said and done, the 18th double-double of his career), as he drove the Bears' to their first home win in their last three games at Haas Pavilion, 81-65.
“It felt good to have a few finally drop," Rabb said. "I think I shot two before that missed but I just kept shooting with confidence and things went in. It’s a big part of my game now. It makes them guard me on the outside —especially when we go small -- it really opens the floor. When I’m able to make that shot, it means we have five shooters on the court.”
"He makes them all the time in practice, so it wasn't that surprising," graduate transfer Grant Mullins -- who finished with 20 points of his own -- said of Rabb's threes.
Rabb went 5-of-7 in the first half, with 16 points and 10 rebounds (he finished 7-of-10 for a game-high 20 points, with 15 rebounds), with three of those 10 first-half rebounds coming on the offensive boards.
Head coach Cuonzo Martin has been saying for weeks that he wants Rabb to be more aggressive, and on Sunday, there was simply no physical match for the 6-foot-10 forward, who hit a step-up jumper on the right wing for three, spun around a block and tipped in a put-back dunk, screened, assisted, blocked -- he did just about everything he could have been asked to do in what was arguably the finest performance he's had as a collegian.
That said, the Bears started their 21-4 end-of-game run with Rabb on the bench due to foul trouble in the second half.
"When Rabb went out I don't think we capitalized on that the way we needed to," Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley said. "We just couldn't get any separation from them with Rabb on the bench."
Rabb wasn't the only Bear firing from beyond the arc. With 16:17 to go in regulation, Mullins hit a corner three from the left side -- his fourth on seven tries -- to get to 1,000 points for his career, between Columbia and Berkeley. Mullins's five three-point makes on the night were a career high.
"It did feel good tonight," said Mullins, whose 20 points were the most he's scored while in Berkeley since transferring from Columbia. "Ivan's gonna keep finding our shooters. And they're just gonna start to go down. But yeah it felt good."
Rabb finished with five assists -- second-most in the game, on either team, as the Bears tallied 20 assists on 30 field goals.
Cal, which came into the game averaging 18.8 three-point attempts per game, finished 11-for-25, as they kept pace with the jump-shooting Sun Devils, who came into the game averaging 27.4 three-point attempts per game, and finished 7-for-24 from beyond the arc.
Where the Bears really took over was down low, as Cal pulled down nine offensive rebounds, and allowed just 18 points in the paint to the undersized Sun Devils. The Bears out-rebounded Arizona State by a staggering 39-25 margin.
Rabb went without making a field goal from 8:54 in the first to 10:31 in the second -- breaking his own personal drought with a step-back jumper to give Cal a 56-52 lead -- was dominant down low, and his absence was more than noticeable when he had to leave the floor with foul trouble.
http://www.scout.com/fantasy/story/1621689-scout-s-playoff-maui-madness?... After Rabb left the floor with 7:49 to go in the game, Arizona State -- which had gone just 2-of-5 at the free throw line -- hit five freebies to take a 61-60 lead. Then, Kingsley Okoroh hit a drop-step two-handed slam from the left block at 4:25, and Sam Singer turned an Okoroh block and rebound into a run-out lay-in. Cal went on a 15-2 run to take a 73-63 lead with 2:22 to go -- the largest lead of the night, for either team, as a Jabari Bird corner three served as the dagger with 2:27 to go.
“It’s really big for us (starting a run with Rabb on the bench)," Mullins said. "It gives our guys confidence. While we have a ton of confidence in him, he can’t play 40 minutes a night or he’d just be too tired. When he’s off the floor, other guys have to step up, and everyone showed us that tonight.”
As Cal rallied, the Sun Devils -- which had so depended on jump shooting prowess throughout the season -- went ice cold for 7:22, going 0-for-6 from the field until a Torian Graham three ended the drought.
Two Bird breakaway dunks twisted the knife, as the senior wing finished with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooing, with three rebounds and two assists, going 2-of-9 from three.
Mullins finished with 20 points, the most he's scored since he scored 20 for Columbia in the March 29 CIT title game against UC Irvine last season. He went 7-of-10 from the field and 5-of-8 from three in his fifth start this season (he started four of the first five games), and first start since Nov. 30 against Louisiana Tech.
"I just felt like it was right to put him back in the lineup," Martin said . "I didn't think he was playing at the level, didn't have his legs on him, until right now. The other thing with that is for him to get in the lineup and do what he does well. He showed that tonight."
Okoroh was masterful down low, scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooing, but also pulling down six rebounds, turning back three shots and tallying a steal. His +/- of +16 was second on the team, behind the +21 of Mullins and Bird.
"He's the best rim protector in the country," Martin said of Okoroh. "May not be the leading shot blocker, but no doubt in my mind he's the best."
Singer had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, adding six rebounds and three assists while fueling an unusually robust Cal transition game, played at a higher tempo than the Bears usually run, given Arizona State's athleticism and pace. Cal had nine fast break points.
Freshman point guard Charlie Moore only had nine points on 2-of-7 shooting, but did have six assists to three turnovers. He came into the game with 40 turnovers to 37 assists on the season.
- Mullins's 20 points were his most as a Cal Bear, breaking his previous best of 17 vs. UC Davis on Dec. 10. He totaled 28 points vs. Army on Dec. 4, 2013, while playing at Columbia.
- By halftime, Rabb had his sixth double-double of the season and second in as many Pac-12 games after finishing with 16 points and 16 boards vs. Arizona Friday. For the game, he finished with 20 points and 15 boards, as well as a season-high 5 assists.
- Rabb finished with 15 rebounds – his third consecutive game with at least 12 after snaring 12 vs. Virginia and career-high 16 vs. Arizona.
- Rabb has grabbed at least 10 rebounds eight times in his 12 games this year.
- Bird has scored in double figures in seven of the eight games he has played this season, including 16 vs. ASU.
- With 3 blocks, Okoroh increased his team-leading total to 37 this season.
- Cal combined 8-for-38 (21.1%) on 3-pointers previous two games vs. Virginia and Arizona. The Bears made 8 of their first 16 3-point attempts vs. ASU and finished 11-for-25 from behind the arc.