Down 47-21, Davidson guard Brian Sullivan raced down the court with just one defender in his path, looking for anything that could energize his team’s languid first-half performance.
But not even this seemingly sure-fire play would go the Wildcats’ way Monday night.
Cal guard Tyrone Wallace made an impressive block from behind, denying Davidson the easy layup as time slipped off the clock in the first frame at Haas Pavilion. And despite a bucket from forward Nathan Ekwu before the buzzer sounded, the Wildcats would never truly recover from their first-half woes, ultimately surrendering a 86-60 defeat to the Cal men’s basketball team.
With the 26-point win, the Bears stretch their perfect home record to 9-0 and improve to 10-3 overall on the season, giving the squad a decisive victory after a heartbreaking overtime loss to No. 5 Virginia last Tuesday.
Against Davidson, it was clear that the Bears were hungry for a convincing win over their Atlantic 10 opponent. With just less than 13 minutes left to play, Cal had surged ahead to a dominant 20-4 lead off of strong play on both ends of the floor — a margin that would only grow as the half progressed.
Leading by as a much as 27 off of a 14-0 run midway through the first frame, the Bears held a 24-point advantage over their opponent after shooting 58.1 percent from the floor in the first half. Meanwhile, the Bears kept Davidson to 29.4 percent and forced two shot-clock violations before the end of the frame. The Wildcats’ leading scorer, guard Jack Gibbs, would end the half just 1-6 from the field.
In addition to solid defense, part of the Bears’ early dominance came from an impressive performance from behind the arc. By halftime, Cal guard Jordan Mathews had drained five of eight from the perimeter, contributing to a 58.3 percent three-point shooting showing from a team that has struggled at times from behind the arc this season.
The efficient three-point shooting performance was also complemented by a successful transition game from the Bears. Featuring several fast break plays — such as a steal-turned-three-point-play in the first half by forward Jaylen Brown — Cal would leave the Wildcats’ defense guessing by the close of the half.
In the first three minutes of the second frame, however, Davidson staged a brief comeback. Embarking on an 8-3 run that brought the Bears’ lead back under 20, it appeared that the Wildcats would make life more difficult for Cal in the second half.
But that impression didn’t last long. The Bears countered with a 13-0 run to bring the score to 65-33. Davidson attempted to adjust with a zone defense that had given Cal trouble earlier in the season, but continued strong three-point shooting in the second half allowed the Bears to easily move past their opponent and finish out the game with mostly bench players on the court.
Dani Jo Coony covers men’s basketball. Contact her at [email protected].