No. 14 Cal opens season with impressive 97-65 win over Rice
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Cuonzo Martin preaches “share the juices,” moving the ball so everybody gets a shot.
That regular message is getting through all right, and California showed its balance in an impressive opener.
Tyrone Wallace had 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds and No. 14 Cal began a season with high expectations by beating Rice 97-65 on Friday night.
“Pass the ball, get your teammates involved. They know what it means,” said Martin, the Golden Bears’ second-year coach. “When you have good players you don’t need a lot of plays when you share the basketball.”
Freshman Ivan Rabb had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes in his collegiate debut right at home in the East Bay and not far from where he starred at Bishop O’Dowd High.
Fellow highly touted recruit Jaylen Brown added 14 points in 15 minutes. He and Rabb each picked up a third foul early in the second half and sat.
“That’s what we do, share the rock,” guard Jordan Mathews said.
The Bears pushed the tempo from the start and crashed the boards to create multiple chances in a solid start under second-year coach Martin.
Egor Koulechov scored 19 points and Marcus Evans had 18 for short-handed Rice, which was missing junior guard and leading scorer Marcus Jackson along with freshman guard Chad Lott after each tore the meniscus in his knee.
“We have no excuses,” Rice coach Mike Rhoades said. “I thought we got very selfish with the ball and put ourselves in a tough position to win.”
Wallace, who returned for his senior season and is on schedule to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree, shot 9 of 12 for a Cal team expected to challenge Arizona for the Pac-12 title.
Mathews added 13 points and Jabari Bird finished with 11 and Cal held a 48-30 rebounding advantage.
Brown returned briefly and was whistled for his fourth foul — having little chance to show much to the several NBA scouts among the announced 10,530 in attendance at Haas Pavilion. Cal got to show off the arena’s $10 million upgrade that includes a new scoreboard hanging above center court, a louder sound system and improved lighting.
The 6-foot-11 Rabb dunked off a miss by Brown at the 16:49 mark of the first half and made things difficult on the defensive end with his length.
“He’s one of those guys you’d describe as a natural rebounder — 13 rebounds in 16 minutes, he goes and he rebounds,” Martin said. “I can only imagine when he continues to get strength on his body the rebounder he’ll become.”
Rice missed seven straight field-goal tries midway through the first half and Cal used a 23-4 run to build a 37-15 lead. Cal shot 50 percent and closed the half on a 6-0 burst for a 47-31 halftime lead, and only built on it the rest of the way.
“I felt like we were over-prepared for this game,” Rabb said. “We came out and we executed.”
BRAUN’S SPECIAL SEAT
Former California and Rice coach Ben Braun worked the broadcast for Pac-12 Networks, a special courtside seat for him without the pressure of winning the game.
He wasn’t too surprised to get this call.
“It’s not often you get a chance to come back and commentate on two teams you spent 18 years with. It’s a special feeling,” Braun said. “I had a good feeling I might be on this game seeing as I coached both schools and know the programs well.”
Braun was recognized during a first-half timeout and even received applause from Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who attended Cal and sat courtside with his daughter.
Rice: Rice shot 6 for 17 on 3-pointers. ... The Owls opened against the Pac-12 for the second straight season, losing at Oregon State last year. They are 11-29 overall against current members of the conference. ... Rice has lost the last two meetings to Cal after winning the first, but the teams hadn’t played in nearly 40 years (Dec. 18, 1975).
California: Cal has won 10 straight season openers. ... Junior Stephen Domingo, a transfer from Georgetown, made his Cal debut with five points and seven rebounds. ... The Bears made 10 of 23 from long range. ... Cal leads the overall series 2-1. ... A water bottle was thrown onto the court from the upper seats during a timeout with 3:40 remaining in the first half but no other incidents occurred after the public address announcer said Cal would receive a technical foul if it happened again.
Rice: At San Francisco on Monday night.
California: Hosts UC Santa Barbara on Monday night.