There wasn’t much surprise when Jordan Bachynski, who at 7-foot-2 is the tallest basketball player in Arizona State history, used his five-inch advantage to win the opening tip against Cal’s David Kravish. And as the ball sailed back toward those black and gold uniforms, hope hung in the Haas Pavilion air that the Sun Devils could notch their eighth win of the season.
That hope lasted for all of three seconds.
Guard Carrick Felix bobbled the ball out of bounds and the Bears responded with an 11-0 run, dealing Arizona State a slow 68-47 death Saturday afternoon.
“We came out with a little bit more energy, played a little more physical,” said Cal point guard Justin Cobbs.
The Sun Devils never pulled within single digits after the clock read 17:27, and trailed by as much as 31. They didn’t make their first field goal until backup forward Kyle Cain, who led his team with 18 points, made a layup at 14:35. No other player scored more than one first-half field goal for Arizona State.
Cal swingman Allen Crabbe, who scored a game-high 19 points, was responsible for seven points during his team’s opening run. Helped by a technical foul on ASU coach Herb Sendek, Crabbe tied a season high for both free throws attempted and made. He did not earn another trip to the line.
The Bears (18-6, 8-3 in the Pac-12) matched last season’s win total with seven games remaining, while Crabbe — who made three of his seven 3-point attempts — moved into a sixth-place tie (62) for single-season 3-pointers in Cal history.
The Bears’ defense, which forced 20 turnovers, held Arizona State to 18-for-47 from the field. The number wasn’t even close to the visitors’ season-low — the Sun Devils have shot worse on five separate occasions this season, including 34.1 percent in a win over North Dakota State. More troubling for Sendek’s squad was a season-worst 2-of-15 showing from 3-point range.
“I was pleased with the first half defensively,” said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. “I thought that we picked it up and put pressure on. We did a nice job that way.”
Montgomery added that his team had some minor trouble against the Sun Devils’ matchup zone, neglecting to move the ball as well as it needed to. Despite the blowout, the game was a plodding defensive affair, with both offenses drying up periodically. The two teams went scoreless for a 2:38 stretch a little before halftime.
Arizona State (7-16, 3-8) simply does not have much talent left. After dismissing leading scorer and former five-star point guard Keala King for “unacceptable conduct” in January, the team lost starting forward Trent Lockett to a sprained ankle. Without King and Lockett, who has now missed six consecutive games, Felix is the only one Sun Devil who averages double-digit scoring.
“The level of play just clearly isn’t where it has to be,” Sendek said. “We struggle mightily with turnovers and getting into our offense.”
Cal forward Harper Kamp and Crabbe both left for the locker room with what appear to be minor injuries, but both returned to the court. Kamp dislocated a finger and should continue to play with tape, while Crabbe sprained his right ankle when he got tangled up on the floor with an Arizona State player.
The victory keeps Cal near the top of the Pac-12. Washington is alone at the top, while the Bears are tied with Colorado in second place. Cal defeated the Buffaloes, 57-50, at Haas Pavilion last month, but the conference newcomers have yet to lose at home in league play.
“The formula remains the same,” Montgomery said. “Win at home and try and sneak out what you can on the road.”