To start the game, nothing was going right for Cal men’s basketball player David Kravish — he couldn’t find the net. The senior missed, in a row, a layup, a jumper, another jumper, another layup, yet another layup and still another layup — his first six shots of the game. But the forward’s seventh shot, a layup, finally fell, and from that point on, Kravish was on fire, finishing with a game-high (and career-high) 25 points.
His dominance along with key minutes from teammates such as guard Jordan Mathews, who had 19 points, and point guard Tyrone Wallace, who had seven assists, led No. 8 seed Cal to a 84-59 victory over No. 9 seed Washington State, giving the Bears their second win, which was also Cal’s biggest Pac-12 tournament win in history.
“It’s just one of those things, you play the game for so long, you can’t dwell on something in the middle of a game,” Kravish said of his early slump. “You gotta look ahead and play defense the next possession to start out.”
Washington State’s head coach, Ernie Kent, commended Kravish for his play, saying he hadn’t really hurt the Cougars in the last two times they faced the Bears.
“I thought Kravish was just spectacular with his play inside, and we didn’t have a lot of answers in there for him,” Kent said. “Once he got rolling and got his confidence, he was very, very difficult to stop.”
Kravish also finished with eight rebounds and three blocks, making him only the second Pac-12 player to collect more than 900 rebounds and 200 blocks in his career. Head coach Cuonzo Martin said he thought the team did a good job establishing Kravish in the post, which set the tone offensively so the perimeter guys had more space.
“That’s where I thought we had an advantage, rolling to the basket, getting offensive rebounds, spacing,” Martin said. “Then we made shots. When you make shots, you always look good.”
And the Bears (18-14, 7-11 Pac-12) did look good against the Cougars (13-18, 7-11), shooting 58.5 percent for the game, 68 percent in the second half. In comparison, Washington State shot just 41.8 percent in the game and star guard DaVonte Lacy, who had just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting and finished the game with two assists. The matchup fell largely to guard Jabari Bird, who Martin said was up to the challenge.
“(Bird) embraced it, and he wanted that,” Martin said. “He did a great job of getting down. He didn’t get back-doored the whole game.”
Limiting Lacy was a stark change from the first time the two teams played, when the senior finished with 14 points and helped lead his team to a 69-66 victory. In the more recent game, Cal came away with a 76-67 win, a game in which Lacy had a team-high 24 points. In both games combined, Lacy had 15 points from the charity stripe.
Kent gave the Bears credit for their play on Lacy, saying Cal doing a good job out on the perimeter with athletic play from the guards to give Washington State different looks from the Bears’ defense.
“We lost the offensive rebounds and gave them easy putbacks,” Kent said. “We lost the offensive rebounds and gave them easy putbacks.”
The Bears now takes on No. 1 seed — and No. 5 ranked — Arizona at noon Thursday. Martin said the task wasn’t “daunting” and that the team will need to just “compete, battle, play hard.” The last two times the teams have played, the Wildcats have beaten the Bears by 23 and 39 points, respectively.
“You’re playing against an opponent in your league,” Martin said. “We didn’t play well at their place the last game. We’ll make adjustments and go from there. … We’ve got to establish a physical tone without fouling.”