BERKELEY -- After just 1:14, UCLA was already in trouble, losing star Shabazz Muhammad to the bench due to two early fouls. Muhammad would play just 28 minutes, as he watched California -- led by a pair of virtuoso performances from junior center Richard Solomon and sophomore forward David Kravish -- put on a slam-dunk clinic and best its cousins from down south by the tally of 76-63.
“This is the team we should have been all season,” said Kravish, who pulled down a game-high 13 boards and scored a career-high 18 points. “This is the team we can be.”
The Bears (15-9, 7-5 in the Pac-12) has now beaten three of the conference’s top four teams over the past four games.
“19-for-24 from the floor, that’s fabulous,” head coach Mike Montgomery said of his bigs, including a 3-for-3 night from Robert Thurman. “We haven't had that kind of production. UCLA kind of forces that. We did a good job of taking advantage and finishing plays with our bigs. Solomon was 8-10, Kravish was 8-11, and Thurman was 3-3. Kravish was very good. He had 18 and 13 and took advantage of the help and offensively rebounded the ball.”
In the first half alone, Solomon and Kravish combined to shoot 10-for-13 with 12 boards, 20 points, 2 blocks and just a single personal foul, as Cal, scored 12 of its first 22 points in the paint, and 26 of its 47 halftime points.
“Rich and I have always been on each other. Early in the season, we didn’t come out with great energy, but Rich and I talked to each other and said, it really starts with us,” Kravish said. “If we get rebounds, the team can get out running. The team can get out fired up and get some energy. It starts with us. We’ve got to bring the effort and the energy.”
Solomon finished the game with 17 points -- one off his career best -- and three jams, none bigger than a one-handed put-back poster job after freshman Tyrone Wallace missed a runner to put Cal up, 18-11 in the first half.
“The bigs, I mean, 8-for-10, 8-for-11, you can’t ask for a better night,” said Allen Crabbe, who scored 16 points.
Not to be forgotten was junior guard Justin Cobbs, who started the game off with a nothing-but-net jumper from the left wing after a block by Solomon on the opening possession, and went on to shoot 4-for-9 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free-throw line, dishing out a game-high nine assists with five boards and just one turnover.
“They were fired up, they were jacked, they were excited to play,” said Montgomery. “The ball moved, peopele moved, guys were making shots, we were defending well. You can point to a couple mistakes, but by and large, we didn’t make many mistakes. We were aggressive, and I thought frankly that the approach to the game plan was solid, actually, to his credit, Larry Drew hurt us. He took advantage of what we were trying to do, to force him and to not let Shabazz and [Jordan] Adams curl off screens, and generally, I thought we did that, but we paid the price with Drew, who jumped up and hit four of five threes.”
The Bears sprinted out to an early 8-3 lead, hitting four of their first seven shots and grabbing five rebounds -- all on the defensive end -- with four of those by Kravish. Things only got worse for the Bruins (18-7, 8-4), as the they looked completely without an offensive game plan, shooting 10-for-33 from the field in the first half and 2-for-9 from long-distance, while neither hitting not attempting a single free-throw.
Muhammad was visibly timid following his removal at 16:45 and re-insertion several minutes later, trying to avoid contact down low while going for rebounds, even against a less physical Tyrone Wallace.
Muhammad shot just 1-for-5 from the field in the first half, with three rebounds and one assist.
After just 20 minutes, Cal saw four players in double-figures on the scoresheet, including Solomon and Kravish, as well Cobbs (10 points) and Crabbe.
“It was fun, when you’re beating a team like that and playing great team defense,” Crabbe said. “It just makes you want to play harder.”
Crabbe was hard to stop from just about anywhere on the floor in the first half, though, hitting shots from mid-range, driving the lane and stepping back and hitting two next-county-over threes practically, to finish the first half 6-of-11 for 15 points.
With 6:33 left in the first stanza, Crabbe jacked up his second trey from way beyond the top of the arc and found nothing but the bottom of the net, putting Cal up, 35-13 and bringing Haas Pavilion to its feet with the capper on a 15-0 run. As he ran by the Student Section, he waved his arms upward, and yelled, “Let’s go!”
Crabbe -- who scored 31 points last time out against then-No. 7 Arizona – finished the game 6-of-16 shooting and 2-of-7 from the three-point line, going silent in the second half and finishing with 16 points, five boards and four assists.
After a Travis Wear step-back J following a no-good three attempt by Muhammad, Solomon got the Bears back on the board with the third of his three first-half dunks. Not to be out-done, on the next Cal possession, Crabbe chipped in a slam of his own, to put the Bears up, 41-17.
"We like Richard going to the middle," Montgomery said. "He's figuring out where he's a bit better. He's pretty good on that turnaround when he gets to the middle of the floor. He also had some drop-offs for dunks and Richard likes that, so that probably buoys his thought process a little bit. I talked to Bill Walton a little bit before the game, and I said, 'Well, if we can get some productivity from our inside people, that makes us a whole lot better.' Crabbe was really good early, which forced them to make an adjustment, which probably opened up our bigs, but that's what playing as a team is about."
As Cal jumped out of the gym and shot the lights out, all the Bruins could do was stand and look up at the falling rubble, shooting just 10-for-33 from the field, and surrendering six of 15 rebounds on the defensive glass, and shouldering a 24-14 disadvantage on the boards, overall.
The Bruins started the second half on a 14-4 run, but once again, thanks to Solomon, the Bears woke up. Solomon hit a turn-around jumper at the right elbow over the largely-silent Kyle Anderson, who shot just 2-for-5 with five rebounds and two assists – in stark contrast to his last outing against Cal at Pauley Pavillion, where he went 5-of-8 from the field and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line, with 12 rebounds and 19 points, along with two steals and two blocks. That shot by Solomon sparked a 13-6 run by the Bears, who were able to stave off the late UCLA charge.
“We let it slip a little bit,” Crabbe said. “But, we made some plays and made some stops and got back to it ... This is what we should have been expecting of ourselves. We should have been holding ourselves accountable. We’re clicking as a team right now, and we just get better each and every game.”
The Bears saw four players score in double digits for the first time this season since they defeated Oregon State on Jan. 31. This marks the second time in Pac-12 play Cal has seen at least four players score in double figures. The Bears have accomplished the feat seven times overall on the season.
Kravish scored a career-high 18 points, chipping in a game-high 13 rebounds with one assist and one block. Kravish shot 8-for-11 from the field and 2-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Four starters pulled down at least five rebounds, with Solomon and Kravish combining for 21.
In honor of the annual Pete Newell Classic, Andy Wolfe -- a first-team All-American who helped the Bears to the 1948 Final Four and was the first Cal player to score 1,000 points – received the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award during a halftime ceremony.
A painting of Newell was unveiled during the game as part of a celebration of 75 years of March Madness. The National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NCAA have commissioned portraits of each national champion coach.
With tonight’s win, Bears head coach Mike Montgomery moved past Hec Edmundson (Washington, 1921-47) for fourth in conference history with 267 league wins.
Cal has now won four of its last five games against the Bruins.
The Bears’ 25-point halftime lead was the largest halftime lead the team has had all season. Cal trailed at the half in each of its previous five games before tonight.
The Bears led by as many as 28 in the first half.
Wallace -- who had seven assists and no turnovers against the Wildcats last Sunday -- had six assists and just one turnover on Thursday against UCLA.
With his 16 points, Crabbe moved to 12th on the all-time Cal scoring list, passing Keith Smart (1,398 points, 1987-90). Next up is Ricky Hawthorne (1,413, 1973-76).