“We played with some enthusiasm, got people involved, did a pretty good job defensively I thought,” said Coach Mike Montgomery after the game. “Just to be able to get away and get a win, and get people playing time, and get a little positive reinforcement was good for us.”
Richard Solomon came back from a subpar effort on Tuesday night against UC Santa Barbara to score a career high 18 points. Solomon also grabbed nine rebounds, six on the offensive board.
“Just being more aggressive and attacking the boards, it kind of got everybody going,” said Solomon. “If I play like this every game I think we'll be a better team.”
The quality of opponent in Pac 12 play may present a considerably greater challenge for Solomon and his teammates.
Top scorer Allen Crabbe also seemed more engaged, with 23 points on just 11 shots. Breaking out of a shooting slump from beyond the arc, Cal's top scorer connected on three of four from distance. Overall, the Bears connected on 50% of their shots.
Cal dominated the visitors on the boards by a 45-25 margin. That included 18 offensive rebounds. Montgomery was happy with 18 assists, but noted that 17 turnovers were too many.
The Bears got off to their typically shaky start, and the visitors jumped out to a 9-4 lead on a trio of three-point shots. Cal then embarked on a 14-0 run to take the lead for good. Crabbe had six points during the run, with a left corner trey as well as an old fashioned three point play on a drive to the rim.
The lead grew to 17 at 40-23, but some foul difficulties led Montgomery to going deeper into his bench, and Prairie View cut the lead to 13 at the intermission. Crabbe led the way at the half with 14, and a more active and aggressive Solomon added 12 points and 5 boards. The margin should have been bigger.
Cal hit 52% from the field, and held their opponent to just 43% in the opening 20 minutes. Cal picked up the defensive intensity in the second half, and they were able to pull away. Prairie View made just eight of 29 shots after the break, a poor 27.6%. For the game, the visitors hit just 35.1% of their field goal attempts.
The players are definitely looking forward to their holiday break. The team will be off until the day after Christmas. “We haven't had a day off since November something. They need some time away,” said the coach. He added that the staff could use the time off as well, and hoped that they would all come back refreshed.
Asked if his team is ready for the start of league play, Montgomery joked, “I thought about calling the league and saying, look, we're not quite ready and could we postpone this thing a little bit, but I didn't get much response. We're probably going to have to head down to LA (in January).”
Prior to the Los Angeles journey, California will play the Crimson of Harvard at 5:00 pm on Saturday the 29th of December at Haas. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.