Kemp did his part, scoring 21 first half points, but the Golden Bears then clamped down on Nevada's outstanding senior, holding him to just five second-half points. Ryan Anderson had an outstanding first half of his own, with 16 points and three rebounds.
He was just warming up.
|AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Kevin Clifford
JaVale McGee dunk late in 1st half
Anderson tore up the Wolfpack inside all night, and when the smoke had cleared, he had 20 points and 10 rebounds - in the second half - and a career-high 36 and 13 overall, carrying his team to a rare 74-68 victory in Reno.
How rare, you ask? Well, we go back to Pete Newell for the answer: The 92-year old patriarch of big men was a junior in high school the last time the Golden Bears won a game in the Biggest Little City in the World - and Herbert Hoover was just starting the third year of his presidency in 1931.
Cal had dropped 6 straight in Reno since that 28-21 victory 76 years ago.
It's unusual for any team to come into the Lawlor Events Center and hang an "L" on Nevada - they had won 13 straight and 25 of 26 at home prior to this contest.
While the Golden Bears never trailed in the game, their biggest lead, 14 points with 5:42 left in the first half, was almost squandered by halftime, and Nevada tied the game at 40-all with the first bucket of the second half.
"I thought they beat us in transition, and we lost Kemp a few times," said head coach Ben Braun after the game. "You give him a look and he'll take advantage of it. And, we put DeVon (Hardin) on the bench, and they went to (JaVale) McGee a little."
McGee blocked shots to slow the Bears down, and racked up five offensive boards of his total of nine to go with his 19 points.
"JaVale McGee is the longest kid in America," said Hardin, "going against him was a challenge. Nevada has a lot of different weapons."
Still, the game was all Anderson all the time.
"We made a conscious effort to go through him, but I told Ryan I was as proud of his rebounds," said Braun. Those rebounds included 5 on the offensive glass that helped Cal control the game down the stretch.
Anderson scored every way you can imagine - posting up, turnarounds in the low block, several incredible baseline drives, running the floor, and stepping out to hit a three when he was blocked inside by McGee.
"I was in a scoring mindset tonight, I guess," suggested Anderson, becoming the leader in the clubhouse for Understatement of the Year. The sophomore from El Dorado Hills was 14-of-23 from the field and shot 65% from two-point range. He also knocked down seven of eight free throws.
"Ryan had some mismatches tonight - JaVale McGee is a tough match up," Braun said. "We ran our offense through Ryan in the post. Our team was patient and we got a much better post presence in the second half."
|AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Brad Horn|
JaVale McGee dunks past Jordan Wilkes
and Ryan Anderson
It wasn't an easy win to take home. "It's like playing at the bottom of a bowl here," Hardin said of the circular building. The crowd was crazy. It was loud and the fans were really into it which made us get into it, too."
The key was shutting down Kemp. The senior was 3-of-5 in the first half from long distance, but was just 1-of-8 from three-point range after the intermission.
Why that happened depends on who you listen to.
Hardin provided a detailed breakdown of Cal's second half adjustments. "We wanted to help more on the screens. In the first half we let him run loose on the screen, and once we got over there and helped out on Patrick, who was guarding him, we were able to contain him."
Braun told a slightly different story. "We thought about changing our defense, but we didn't. We had tremendous help in the second half."
Even Kemp himself seemed to agree with Braun. "They didn't make any adjustments. I just wasn't hitting in the second half."
True enough, but he wasn't hitting because he wasn't getting unmolested looks or isolation in the corner for uncontested shots, either. As a result, he was 1-for-11 in the second half.
McGee entered the game with six blocks on the season, and added six more Wednesday. His defense helped key UNR's 14-4 run in the last 5:23 of the first half, including one spectacular rejection of an Eric Vierneisel lay up that fired up the crowd. He finished the night with 19 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.
With the game tied at 44, Anderson took over, scoring seven unanswered points, nine straight, and 14 of Cal's next 19 in an 8:47 stretch that left the Golden Bears with a 9 point lead at 63-54 with 4:49 left to play.
Kemp tried to take the game back, but forced up shots in the effort.
He finished the game 9-of-26 from the floor, and was scoreless for 13-½ minutes between his two free throws at 15:31 - and his only second stanza basket at 2:08.
That basket did cut Cal's lead to 3, at 67-64, but then UNR coach Mark Fox's strategy of sending the Bears to the line on the road backfired when Anderson hit 3-of-4 and Patrick Christopher 4-of-6 to help the Bears pull away down the stretch.
Cal will next face Missouri on Saturday night at Haas in an unusual 8:00 p.m. start.
It will mark the Golden Bears' first TV appearance of the year, on FSN in the Bay Area.
The last time Cal started a season 5-0 (and got to keep the wins in the books) was the 1992-93 season that started under Lou Campanelli.
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