For the first three minutes of Sunday night’s game, the Cal men’s basketball team only led Kennesaw State by four points, which came off a 3-pointer from senior forward David Kravish that came about 30 seconds into the game and a free throw from sophomore guard Jordan Mathews. It was a slow start for a team that came out running Friday night in the season opener.
But in what felt like the blink of an eye, the scoreboard wasn’t even close.
In 40 minutes of play, the Bears (2-0) cemented their dominance over the Owls, 93-59. Kennesaw State (0-2) was coming off a Friday game against Syracuse, a game the Owls lost 89-42.
“At the end of the day, you show up, and it’s time to compete,” said Kennesaw State associate head coach David Rivers. “It’s about being disciplined, it’s about being focused and just coming out and doing your job … and we have yet to step up in that direction.”
Heading into the half, the Bears led by 26 points. While Kennesaw State was able to keep the game close for a bit early on, Cal’s athleticism, strong shooting and solid defense quickly put the Owls’ play to shame. The Bears had a .552 field goal percentage in the first half, compared to a .240 field goal percentage from Kennesaw State. Cal finished the game with a .603 field goal percentage.
The Bears’ guards had themselves quite a game despite the Owls doing a good job of clogging up the paint, making the guards work to loosen up the defense.
Sophomore guard Jabari Bird had another strong performance, putting up 15 points on 7-10 shooting. He also tallied seven rebounds and one assist. Mathews, too, looked good, with a couple of 3-pointers for a 16 point total. He also had seven rebounds and two assists.
And junior guard Tyrone Wallace, who started the game off very slowly, stepped up in the second half and came one board away from a second double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds, adding seven assists.
While forward Dwight Tarwater has looked good sinking threes in practice, he’s looked phenomenal in games to start the season. In the two games this weekend, he’s made tough shots look just about effortless. In the game against Kennesaw State he contributed 10 points, including two 3-pointers.
Head coach Cuonzo Martin said Kennesaw State didn’t allow the Bears to get that extra pass to a shooter that Cal wants to see in the offense going forward. And the offense didn’t quite get off to the fast start it did Friday night against Alcorn State with a slower game as a result of less of a transition offense that had been previously showcased.
“I felt like the ball was sticking too much — too many guys were trying to go 1-1,” Wallace said. “We’ve just got to move the ball.”
The first-half defense, which only allowed 15 points, was strong, but in the second half, things looked a bit sloppier.
When Mathews was asked whether Martin was happy with the team’s defensive performance, his answer was simple: no.
“One thing about Coach is he’s always going to push you for more, he’s never going to be content with anything you do, because that’s when you get lazy,” Mathews said.
Martin said he wanted to see great defensive play for 40 minutes rather than just for a half. Still, he said he was happy with the game result because he was seeing improvements in the defensive play of guys like Mathews and Wallace and thinks the offense will only continue to get better.
“At the end of the day, it says ‘California ‘W,’’ and I’m a happy man,” Martin said.