Cal’s Sam Singer found Ivan Rabb open near the top of the three-point line from an under-the-basket inbounds. Rabb swung the ball left to Charlie Moore, who immediately drove toward the hoop from the top of the key. In the meantime, Rabb dropped toward the baseline in time to catch Moore’s lob and throw down the hammer with a vicious dunk, punishing Alcorn State as part of his impressive 18-point first half. In fact, Rabb’s dominance was apparent all day long, as he finished the game with 26 points on an efficient 10-12 shooting to lead the Bears to a 83-59 victory Saturday at Haas Pavilion.
Playing without graduate transfer and three-point specialist Grant Mullins, who was a scratch for personal reasons, Cal (6-1) defined the first half by making the most of its height advantage. With big men Kingsley Okoroh and Rabb being taller than everyone on the Braves’ roster, the Bears looked inside early.
“I thought it would be an issue with not having a guy that stretches the defense, but I thought we did a great job getting the ball to Ivan, letting him make plays,” said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. “I thought we had a great team effort offensively, just reading and playing with good flow.”
Okoroh opened the scoring with a tip-in off his own miss, the rebound for which no Alcorn State player could compete for. The Braves answered right back with a beautiful crossover and step back three from forward Marquis Vance. Rabb got an easy layup after a dribble penetration from Roger Moute a Bidias drew the defense, but Alcorn State hit another three on the next play to take a 6-4 lead.
Rabb converted an and-one after an offensive rebound on the next play, and from there it was off to the races as he and the Bears built a healthy double-digit lead they would maintain on and off throughout the half.
Moute a Bidias hit a contested jumper from downtown and then stole the ball for a fastbreak dunk on the next play to put the Bears up 18-10. Two Don Coleman free throws and a Stephen Domingo tip-in would help Cal extend its lead to 10 points, but it was the Rabb show that put the Bears in control for the rest of the half. He scored from all over the court by hitting a turnaround jumper in the post, getting a layup and hitting free throws, and his teammates greatly benefitted from the defensive attention he drew.
“It’s a lot easier for us. When I have the ball on the wing I just dump it down to Ivan. Either he gets a bucket, he goes to the foul line or he gets doubled and they kick it out and we get shots up,” Moute a Bidias said.
The Bears headed to the locker room up with a healthy 44-25 lead.
The second half began with Rabb displaying his brilliance once again, but this time with two assists — both to a cutting Okoroh for wide-open layups.
A Moore three-pointer ─ his first field goal of the game ─ gave the Bears their largest lead to that point at 53-29. A few minutes later, it was Okoroh’s turn to be the passing big man, as he found Singer for an easy layup with a bounce pass between two Braves for an assist of his own.
Cal continued its dominance throughout the rest of the game, with the bulk of the production in the half coming from Rabb and Moute a Bidias, who finished with 12 points on 50 percent shooting. Okoroh finished with a game-high nine rebounds with Coleman adding a notable 10 points off the bench.
With 5 minutes 19 seconds remaining and a 74-45 lead ─ equalling Cal’s largest of the game ─ Martin cleared his bench, letting Rabb and the rest of the starters take a well-deserved early exit as the bench coasted to victory.
Vikram Muller covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]