In a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate, the California Golden Bears snapped their two-game home losing streak with an 81-65 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion. The Bears finished the game on a 21-4 run over the final six minutes to pull away from the visitors. Cal evened their conference record at 1-1, and are now 10-4 overall.
"Really good second half for our guys," said Coach Cuonzo Martin. "I thought in the second half we did a good job of really tightening the screws defensively."
"I think we just finally got some stops and some rebounds," added Grant Mullins. "I don't think we really had a problem scoring, but just getting stops." Cal made 52.6% of their shots for the night, and hit better than 60% after the intermission.
Arizona State went eight minutes without a field goal during Cal's decisive run, and had just one bucket in the final 9:44 of the game. The Bears held ASU to 31% shooting in the second twenty minutes, and 40% for the game.
Ivan Rabb recorded his 6th double-double on the season with 20 points and 15 boards. For good measure, the sophomore star added five assists and made a pair of treys in the first half. Mullins celebrated his return to the starting lineup with 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting. Mullins was hot from outside the arc, connecting on 5 of his 8 attempts. It was a season high for the graduate transfer.
"I know coming off the bench or starting, I try to do the same thing," said Mullins. "Some games the shots just go in and you're more open than others. I think that's all it was."
Explaining the decision to start Mullins, Martin said, "I just felt it was right to put him back in the lineup. I thought there were too many times he was trying to show he was a guy that could make plays off the dribble. I don't think that's his strength, not that he can't do it."
ASU took their final lead of the game at 61-60 with six minutes left on a pair of free throws by Shannon Evans II. Sam Singer tied it up by splitting a pair at the line, and Cal took the lead for good when Kingsley Okoroh found a cutting Jabari Bird for a slam dunk.
On the next possession, Okoroh took the ball to the bucket himself and dunked, and then his blocked shot led to a Singer layup that increased the margin to six. An old-fashioned three-point play from Mullins, and a corner tray from Bird made it a ten-point game and effectively put ASU away.
With ASU playing four perimeter players for much of the game, Martin used a three-guard lineup to counter the visitors. Mullins, Singer and Charlie Moore all performed well in this alignment.
"It's great playing with those guys because we can all really play point guard or off the ball," said Mullins. "When you play with three guards like that, you get more movement even if you give up some height for rebounding."
Okoroh came up big during the decisive run. "I think he's really played exceptionally the entire season," said Rabb. A lot of things he does may not show on the stat sheet, but anyone following our program understands how huge a part of our team he is."
Cal will now head off to Los Angeles to face UCLA and USC for the only times this season. The two games will be the Bears' first road tests of the season. The UCLA game will tip at 6:00 pm on Thursday night.
- ASU fell to 8-7 overall, and 1-1 in the Pac-12.
- The crowd was announced at 8,776.
- Obinna Oleka led the Sun Devils with 18 points and Tra Holder added 14.