No. 15 Cal men’s basketball dominates UCSB at Haas Pavilion, 85-67

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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The first half wasn’t even over when the UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team found itself in desperation mode at Haas Pavilion. Tinkering with a zone defense just 10 minutes into the first frame, the Gauchos were searching for anything in their arsenal to stop the onslaught that had driven up a 10-point lead for the No. 15 Bears on Monday night.

But the home team would barely blink at the new look.

Cal point guard Tyrone Wallace soon sliced through the wall of Gauchos, muscling up a ball that graced the backboard before falling in as the senior was fouled for the and-one. The shot went in, and the Bears were well on their way to a 85-67 win over its second opponent of the season, bringing their record to 2-0 and handing the Gauchos (1-1) their first loss of the year.

Against its undersized opponent, Cal opened the game with what has become a consistent starting lineup, highlighted by three guards in the back and forwards Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb rounding out the frontcourt. But despite the prolific offense and speed expected from that group — all five finished with more than 10 points in the Bears’ season opener against Rice — the first half would start out slow for both teams at Haas Pavilion.

Other than a pair of free throws from Rabb, both the Bears and the Gauchos struggled to get on the board early on, with Cal going 0-5 from the field through the first several minutes. Meanwhile, the Gauchos fared even worse at 0-6 — partly because of strong defensive play from Cal, which forced its opponent to toss up several desperate lobs as the shot clock wound down time and time again.

The deadlock wouldn’t last long. After a missed 3-pointer from the Gauchos, Cal guard Jordan Mathews found himself with the ball on the other end and converted for a trey from near the top of the arc. Then, just seconds later, the junior repeated, making up for a 0-3 performance from guard Jabari Bird to start off the half and bring the Bears up, 8-0. Cal wouldn’t look back as it left UCSB staring at a 47-28 margin as the first-half buzzer sounded

That dominance continued into the second frame, and impressive play from the Bears’ guards would come to be a defining feature of the matchup. Finishing 6-9 from the field and with 16 points, Mathews would complement the strong performance of Wallace, who led Cal with 24 points of his own.

“Tyrone makes us go,” Martin said. “He’s a great, talented player. When you spend four years in college, you experience a lot, and he’s battle tested. He’s one of the toughest guys to defend because he can make shots off the dribble. When he’s making his 3-pointers, he’s tough to guard.”

Meanwhile, despite a solid outing from UCSB guard Michael Bryson, the Gauchos consistently struggled to both penetrate and contain its opponent as the Bears continued to find points everywhere on the court. Highlighted by explosive plays from Brown — including a deflected-pass-turned-left-handed-jam to light up the crowd at Haas — and sustained by successful and frequent trips to the free-throw line, Cal would round out the remaining minutes relatively unscathed as it cruised to an 18-point win.

Dani Jo Coony covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].