The Cal men’s basketball team’s game against Furman — the Bears’ final nonconference matchup of the season — had all the makings of a blowout.
Against Clemson two weeks ago, Furman (5-7) came up 36 points short. In its matchup against Cal on Saturday, the only indication that it would turn into anything other than a blowout was the revelation that Jabari Bird would miss the game with a sprained ankle. That news came off the heels of Ricky Kreklow’s broken arm.
But those injuries were not nearly enough to slow down the Bears (9-4). Jordan Mathews replaced Bird in the starting lineup, and Cal rolled to a 90-60 win at Haas Pavilion.
“We needed some positive reinforcement,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “That’s what tonight provided for us.”
Mathews, making the second start of his career, filled in well for Bird. The freshman guard put up 10 points — one of five Bears to reach double digits.
But without Kreklow and Bird to help carry the load, the Bears found themselves relying on an unlikely shooter from behind the arc: Jeff Powers. Powers came into the game with just two points on the season but dropped six three-pointers in the game for 18 total points. Sam Singer, playing in relief of point guard Justin Cobbs late in the game, continually went back to Powers, and the fifth-year senior delivered. Powers’ hot shooting brought the Bears’ lead to as high as 35 points, making the blowout inevitable.
“That was pretty special,” Powers said. “I haven’t done that since high school. Hopefully I get more opportunities to do that in the future.”
In addition to Powers, Cobbs also stepped up for Cal. The senior point guard was aggressive early, driving to the hoop with authority against a weak Furman defense. Cobbs put up 12 points in the first half and finished with 18 after resting much of the second half.
Aided by a 60.7 percent shooting night from the team as a whole and with 90 points, the Bears fell just two short of their high for the season. But it was Powers’ performance that singlehandedly made what could have been a boring contest into an exciting game for the small crowd at Haas Pavilion as he drained bucket after bucket.
“(Powers) is a good shooter,” Montgomery said. “That’s what he’s always been.”
At the end of the game, it was easy to forget that Cal was without two of its main contributors as the Bears rolled right past the overmatched Paladins and into conference play.
“I think today was a big step up for us in terms of confidence,” Cobbs said. “I’m excited to see how we take this 9-4 record into conference (play).”