Bucket after bucket rained down in Haas Pavilion on Tuesday night as the Cal men’s basketball team found itself in a shootout with Nevada. The Wolf Pack shot an impressive 55 percent from the field, but the Bears were able to keep pace with 56 percent shooting.
For both teams, the few possessions that didn’t end in a bucket were those that ended in turnovers or fouls. Luckily for the Bears (7-3), Nevada gave them plenty of both. Cal committed just seven turnovers while benefitting from 13 by Nevada (4-6). Meanwhile, the Bears found themselves at the line 22 times and made 18 off those attempts, while the Wolf Pack were 12-for-17 on free throws for the night.
Those aspects of the game led to a 92-84 win for the Bears, giving them a 6-0 record at home.
Cal began the night with Jordan Mathews and Ricky Kreklow in the starting lineup in place of Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace. Wallace and Bird each had putrid offensive efforts in Cal’s last game against UC Santa Barbara. Mathews had a career-high 22 in that game, while Kreklow began the season as the starter before being displaced by Bird.
“We’re just trying to develop our depth,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “So there was no rhyme or reason to it.”
The gamble paid off for Mathews, though not for Kreklow. The freshman guard added 13 points off 4-for-8 shooting, while Kreklow didn’t make a single shot and recorded just two points off free throws.
“Anything I can do to help,” Mathews said. “(Starting) is just an adjustment I’ll have to make — a different role.”
But the players Montgomery benched in favor of Mathews and Kreklow came off the bench firing. Wallace’s deep shot could not be contained early in the contest, as he was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first half. In the second, he added another and finished the game with 14 points.
Bird, meanwhile, caught fire in the second half, finishing with 16 in the game despite having just four in the first half of play.
But the Bears’ offense did not thrive off the performance of a few players. Instead, this was arguably Cal’s most balanced attack of the season. Six players finished between 13 and 16 points, with each of those players shooting the ball at least eight times.
“This team has a lot of weapons — a lot of guys who can put the ball in the hole,” said guard Justin Cobbs.
Nevada’s offense was the exact opposite. The Wolf Pack relied heavily on senior point guard Deonte Burton, who came into the game averaging 22.9 points per game — nearly double that of the team’s next-highest scorer. In this contest, Burton put up 26 points off 5-for-11 shooting as the Bears struggled to keep the explosive guard out of the paint.
Burton played all 40 minutes of the game, but his performance was not enough to carry the Wolf Pack. Though Nevada led by as many as eight early on, Cal soon fought its way back. When Wallace hit a three to put the Bears up two midway through the first, it marked the last lead the Wolf Pack would see in the match. Try as they might, Burton and company didn’t have the firepower to match the Bears.