Cal men’s basketball ready to put on another memorable game against Alcorn State

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Alice Langford/File

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The Cal men’s basketball team will host Alcorn State (2-4) this Saturday, and Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin has a fond memory of his opponent.

In his first season as Cal’s head coach ─ and actually his first regular season appearance and first home game ─ Martin coached the Bears to a 91-57 demolition of the Braves, in what he described as a “great first game.”

Point guard Tyrone Wallace led the Bears with 22 points, center David Kravish had a near double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds and graduate student Dwight Tarwater came off the bench to hit three three-pointers.

A point guard leading the team scoring? A big dominating the boards? A new (to Cal) but experienced veteran pouring in points from downtown?

This sounds oddly familiar.

Charlie Moore doesn’t have Wallace’s size, but he certainly possesses a similar scoring prowess from the point guard position; Ivan Rabb is far more athletic and a better scorer than Kravish was but nonetheless has been an unstoppable double-double machine this season, and Grant Mullins is a graduate transfer and still has been relied on as a reliable three-point threat.

But of all the impressive statistics from that night two years ago, what Martin would probably most like to see this weekend is the least likely to happen: six of his players in double figures.

While the Bears (5-1) have had a decent start to the season, only dropping one game which they could have won, one notable thing has stood out each time they have taken the floor. The four times that Rabb has played, he and Moore have combined for 149 out of the team’s 271 total points.

More than Moore’s tendency to look for his own shot first, which isn’t really a bad thing from a one guard, this statistic also speaks to  the sheer dominance Rabb exerts down low.

This team is definitely more talented than that of two years ago, and the mold that Martin has built for this team bodes well for this season as long as the other players don’t get complacent. If surrounding pieces cannot hold their own while Rabb and Moore sit, as they failed to do against Louisiana Tech in their last outing, it could be potentially dangerous for Cal.

But if Rabb continues to use the threat he poses to distribute to his teammates or allow Moore to do so, the Bears stand to reap great benefits from their beast of a big man. The attention Rabb garners has already helped the quick rise of Moore, who likewise has taken some of the pressure off of Rabb.

“He can make plays and he can make free throws. He’s shifty with the basketball, he pushes in transition, he probes the defense, he finds shooters and he can make shots,” Martin said of Moore.

Admittedly, the process of building the team around the star big man isn’t perfected from one day to the next. This weekend, Martin will have another opportunity to expand his team’s resume and for another player to be the beneficiary of Rabb’s dominance — this time, however, against a more memorable opponent.

Vikram Muller covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].