It took just under five minutes for Allen Crabbe to find his offensive mojo again.
After struggling with his shot in back-to-back games against Creighton and UCSB, the junior guard regained his touch Saturday afternoon at Haas Pavilion, connecting on 73% of his shots. He led the Cal men’s basketball team to an 85-53 win over Prairie View A&M in the final game before the Christmas break.
“We played with some enthusiasm,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We got a little careless with the ball, but just to get away and get a win and get people playing time was good for us.”
The Bears struggled to find their rhythm on offense out of the gate, as Crabbe turned two scoring opportunities into turnovers with a pair of bad passes.
Meanwhile, Prairie View A&M connected on three of its first four shots, all coming from beyond the arc, building an early 9-4 lead.
“We knew we came out kind of slow,” Crabbe said. “Everybody was excited thinking about going home after the game. But them coming out aggressive woke us up.”
Center Richard Solomon would quickly respond with an and-one underneath, and freshman Tyrone Wallace would follow it up with a three, quickly giving the Bears back the lead at 10-9.
Crabbe kept the run going and found his shot, connecting on a corner three, then drawing a foul on a layup and converting the free throw. Guard Justin Cobbs stole the ball and emphatically finished a run out with a one handed jam, and all of a sudden the Bears were up 18-9 on the heels of a 14-0 run.
The Panthers didn’t have an answer for Cal on offense, and gave the Bears a multitude of different looks on defense — all to no avail. Crabbe led all scorers in the first half with 14 points on five of seven shooting, effectively breaking out of his slump. Right behind him were Solomon with 12 and and Cobbs with 10. Solomon also turned in five rebounds, finishing the game with nine.
“Playing like this helped us out a lot,” Solomon said. “It got everybody going. If I play like this every game, I think we’ll be a better team.”
Both teams would sleepwalk through the opening minutes of the second half, trading baskets while playing sloppy and turnover-ridden basketball. Cal continued to struggle with finishing their defensive possessions, giving up 13 offensive rebounds.
“I feel like we can board the ball a little better on the defensive side,” Crabbe said. “Sometimes I do see my man getting offensive rebounds because I’m just watching my man and not boxing out.”
Up 58-44, the Bears finally managed to sustain a run, stringing together five unanswered scores to put the game out of reach.
Crabbe got the run started with a contested layup. Then after a pair of Cal jumpers, Jeff Powers hit a three to make it 67-44. Cobbs would go coast to coast to cap off a quick 11-0 run and prompt a Prairie View timeout.
Crabbe would finish the game leading all scorers with 23 points, making eight of his 11 shots, including three of four from beyond the arc. The Bears outshot the Panthers 50 percent to 35 percent and won the rebound battle 45 to 25 but still gave up 13 offensive rebounds.
“We’re probably in the middle of the pack right now, and we’re going to have to improve in some areas,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “But we have the ability to finish up towards the top, and that’s our goal.”
Contact Connor Byrne at [email protected]