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Cal men's basketball squeaks by Oakland, 64-60

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Sports Editor

NOVEMBER 16, 2013

Down 30-24 to Oakland at the half, the Cal men’s basketball team needed an answer.

Up to this point in the game, nothing had been working for the Bears. Cal tried subbing in freshman Sam Singer at point guard, moving usual starter Justin Cobbs to the position of shooting guard. The team also tried a host of different lineups. They were all to no avail, as the Bears soon found themselves down nine points midway through the first half.

“We didn’t come out with enough intensity,” said Cobbs.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery had other words.

“More than anything else was the notion that we weren’t going to have to pay attention and could still win,” he said. “We are simply not good enough to go into a game and have that kind of mental approach. We have to focus and concentrate.”

Hot shooting by Oakland’s Travis Bader, who had 12 points in the first half and finished with 21 in the game, kept the Grizzlies out in front. At one point Oakland made seven buckets in a row, pushing the team to a nine-point lead over Cal. The Bears had trouble keeping up. They headed to the locker room trailing in a game in which they expected to dominate. They finished that half with a six point deficit and with more questions than answers.

But in the second half, the Bears found their answer: Jabari Bird.

The two teams traded shots, and the lead, for much of the second half. Then, with 1:25 remaining in the game, Bird hit a jumper to give the Bears (3-0) a three point lead that they would never relinquish. The Bears went on to defeat the Grizzlies (0-3), 64-60.

Bird kept the Bears in the game nearly by himself. The freshman guard caught fire, hitting 7-of-14 shots and contributing a career-high 24 points. 19 of those points came in the second half alone, as multiple threes from Cal’s most anticipated new player brought the small crowd at Haas Pavilion to its feet. He was lethal from beyond the arc, sinking 6-of-8 three-point attempts to keep up with Bader’s shooting prowess.

“Jabari stepped up and saved us from deep,” Montgomery said.

The freshman was also aided by one of the team’s seniors: Richard Solomon. The forward picked up a whopping 17 rebounds for the Bears, breaking a career-high he set in Cal’s last game against Denver. Like Bird, Solomon improved in the second half, picking up 11 of his rebounds during that time. He also added 11 points, two blocks, and three steals for the Bears.

Cobbs, meanwhile, put in a 13 point, five assist effort. His important contribution was from the line, where the senior point guard hit nine of 10 free throws. His 7-of-8 free throw shooting in the second half, combined with the efforts from Solomon and Bird, was just enough to allow Cal to escape with a win.

“I think we were fortunate,” Montgomery said. “There’s no question Oakland played harder than us.”

Riley McAtee covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @riley_mcatee

NOVEMBER 16, 2013

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