Simply outmatched at every position, Southern Utah never really stood a chance. Cal’s guards were faster and its forwards stronger. But above all, the team came out with a game plan, and executed it to perfection.
“They were obviously overmatched,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “They had a lot of new players and they were still trying to figure out what to do.”
Cal (4-0) dominated Southern Utah (1-2) in a 75-47 rout Monday night at Haas Pavilion. Led by a balanced scoring effort and a swarming defense, the Bears never relinquished control of the lead.
The backcourt duo of Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace forced a number of turnovers and tough shots. Cobbs’ elite athleticism was none more evident as he picked up opposing guards in the full court, leading to steals and broken passes. Meanwhile, Wallace tore apart the Southern Utah defense with hard drives to the basket leading to free throws and open buckets. His shooting practice during the offseason was evident, as he knocked down a pair of three-pointers.
As good as Cal was on offense, it was even better on the other end as Southern Utah could not score against the swarming Cal defense. The Bears’ stymieing perimeter defense led to botched post feeds and multiple shot clock violations. On the other end, Cal scored seemingly at will, playing a strong inside-out game leading to paint points, free throws, and open three-point shots. The Bears shot 43% from the field while the Thunderbirds shot a dismal 29%.
The Cal big men bullied the less athletic and inexperienced big men of Southern Utah. The Bears continued to crash the boards for 15 offensive rebounds leading to 21 second chance points. Richard Solomon racked up 14 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals in only 20 minutes of play. The Bears held the Thunderbirds to six points in the paint while they are able to score 26.
“I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t average double-digit rebounds,” Montgomery said. His mindset is that he can get every board.”
Unlike the last game against Oakland, Cal got off to a quick start with a Jabari Bird three-pointer and a Solomon and-one. Southern Utah’s first three possessions resulted in three turnovers as the Thunderbirds had trouble feeding the post and moving the ball around the perimeter. The Bears scored 14 unanswered points before Southern Utah guard Casey Oliverson hit a jumper to put the Thunderbirds on the board.
Following a shot clock violation by Southern Utah with 5:03 left in the first half, the lead ballooned to 23 points after a Wallace three-pointer. Southern Utah got hot to end the first half with back-to-back three-pointers but couldn’t get stops on the other end. Cal went into the locker room with a 39-20 lead at halftime.
Solomon opened the second half with a finesse step-through move as Cal continued to look for its big men inside the paint. The lead grew to as much as 35 points on a David Kravish offensive rebound and three-point play on a foul. The Bears lead never dipped below 30 points as the bench got to play heavy minutes, coasting for the easy win.
Despite the last four wins, the Bears are determined not to let their early season victories get to their heads. They have three tough games ahead of them at the Maui Invitational and need to stay focused to continue their success.
“We have to forget these last four game,” Kravish said. “We got to stay focused on the next game and playing hard as a group.