Led by strong rebounding effort, Cal men’s basketball dominates UC Irvine, 73-56

Kelly Fang/Senior Staff

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After a 1-2 finish at the Maui Invitational, the Bears (6-2) were ready to rebound against UC Irvine (5-3) at home Monday night. And not only did the Cal men’s basketball team metaphorically rebound with a 73-56 win, but it also literally outrebounded the Anteaters, 50-41.

Both of those stats come as something of a surprise. Cal was at a massive height disadvantage against the Anteaters, with Kameron Rooks, at 7 feet, being Cal’s tallest player. But Rooks, a freshman who rarely gets significant playing time, played just seven minutes in this contest. For most of the game, Cal’s rebounding duties fell on 6-foot-9 David Kravish and 6-foot-10 Richard Solomon, who recorded 10 and eight boards, respectively. Sophomore guard Tyrone Wallace also added a surprising 11 rebounds.

The Anteaters, meanwhile, came in with no lack of height. Mamadou Ndiaye, at 7-foot-6, headlines the tall Irvine roster. Although the freshman started in the lineup, he recorded just four points and five rebounds after fouling out midway through the second half with just 10 minutes under his belt.

“I didn’t see anything but his chest the whole game,” said Solomon, who was dwarfed by Ndiaye.

Sometimes the balls just fell Cal’s way, but the Bears were also able to consistently outmuscle the Anteaters for position under the rim. Although all indications before the game pointed to the Anteaters dominating on the boards, the total was lopsided in Cal’s favor in the end. It’s not the first time the Bears have outrebounded an opponent this season despite having no abundance of height on the roster. Coming into the game, Cal was outrebounding its opponents 40.4-31.3 per game on average.

“I was pleased with how we did defensively. We stuck to the game plan,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery.

The final score also was unexpected. While the Bears were no doubt favored in the matchup, they were never expected to blow out a UC Irvine team that won nine of its final 12 games last season and five of its last six coming in to Monday night’s game. The Anteaters were also picked to finish first in the Big West in the conference media poll.

But the Bears simply had the hot hand.

Cal shot 44 percent from the field, both through jumpers and through drives to the rim. Kravish’s midrange jumper was especially potent, and the junior power forward went 9-for-15 for 19 points, leading the Bears in scoring and tying a career high he set against Arkansas a week ago.

“They just kept giving me the ball, and I’m happy I was making them,” Kravish said.

The Anteaters were unable to keep up. They shot just 29 percent from the field, a number that was low even before the team started resorting to long three attempts late in the second half to try to catch up. But most of those attempts caught rim, and with Ndiaye fouled out, UCI couldn’t collect the offensive rebounds necessary to make such a strategy viable. The Bears soon cruised to their sixth win of the season.

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