HAAS PAVILION — Cal men’s basketball closed out 2013 with a 90-60 win over the Furman Paladins Saturday afternoon.
A strong first half by the Berkeley offense powered the Golden Bears to a 43-25 lead at halftime.
Down 4-2 a minute and a half in, Cal went on an 11-0 run to take the lead and never look back.
Furman was able to capitalize on a couple of breakdowns by the Cal defense late in the half, but a big three by Jeff Powers put a stop to that and spurred Cal onto a 7-0 run.
Cal finished the first half shooting 58.1 percent, their second-best shooting half of the season. They shot 59.1 percent against Denver (SWAC, 5-6) on November 12.
Defensively, the Bears held Furman to just 37.5 percent shooting in the first half.
The Paladins kept pace with the Golden Bears to start the second, actually outscoring them by a slight margin of 22-21 through the first nine minutes.
Furman’s best player – sophomore Stephen Croone – came alive, scoring nine of his 13 total points in that span.
But with 9:27 left on the clock, Berkeley guard Tyrone Wallace sunk a three that Furman was unable to counter to put the game out of reach for the Paladins.
Wallace had 18 points on the day, giving him his fourth game in a row with double-digits, giving him a 14.1 points per game average over the last four games.
Wallace wasn’t the only one who came alive offensively for the Golden Bears. Seniors Justin Cobbs and Jeff Powers also each put up 18. Entering Saturday’s game, Powers had scored just two points all season, but he went 6-for-7 on three pointers to tally a career-high.
Powers perhaps even surprised himself with his performance today:
“I can’t really put it into words how it felt, but that was pretty special. I haven’t really done anything like that since high school. … I made the shots I took, so that was pretty fun. I enjoyed it. And we got the win.”
Star Richard Solomon played only 22 minutes but managed to record his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and twelve rebounds. Coming into the game, Solomon was ranked 14th nationally, averaging 10.1 rebounds per game.
Overall, the Golden Bears outscored Furman on fast breaks 23-2, on turnovers 18-9, and shot 60.7 percent for the game, their best offensive performance of the season.
Cal’s defense also did their part, holding Furman to shooting just 41.8 percent and containing Croone.
Croone is coming off of a career-game, scoring 40 points against Liberty on December 20. He’s averaging 21.2 points per game this season, so holding him to just 13 on Saturday was a victory in itself for the Golden Bears.
Cobbs knew how good Croone had been coming in, and was prepared to defend him:
“Just stay in front of him, make him shoot contested shots. He finished 5-for-17, so I think we did a great team job. It wasn’t just me, it was a lot of guys. Just a great team effort on defense and offense.”
After finishing 2013 with a 9-4 record, Cal’s final 18 games come against the tough Pac-12 conference.
Head Coach Mike Montgomery gave his team an overall grade of a B for the first half of their season, and Saturday’s big win provided some confidence headed into conference play:
“The games that we lost were on the road against good teams. … Nine wins is probably a game short, maybe two games short, of being really good. A game short of pretty dang good.”
The Golden Bears begin conference with their first conference game of the season on Thursday, January 2 at Stanford.
Cal is now 2-0 all-time vs. Furman. … Cal did not commit its first turnover of the game until 5:52 remained in the first half and finished with a season-low five turnovers. … Wallace and Cobb combined for 36 points on 17-of-23 shooting from the floor.