Sloppy Bears hold off pesky Pirates 70-62
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California coach Cuonzo Martin was glad to finally see his team play against a zone defense, even if the Golden Bears couldn’t get into a steady offensive flow.
It’s part of the growing process for Martin’s young squad, and he expects to see a lot more of the zone until the Bears prove capable of handling it.
Ivan Rabb had 14 points and 13 rebounds, Jaylen Brown added 16 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 California beat East Carolina 70-62 in the Las Vegas Invitational on Friday night.
“You want this early, you want to see that against a team that normally plays zone,” Martin said. “I’d rather have it now, just to feel it.”
Coming off lopsided wins over Rice and Santa Barbara, the Bears struggled most of the night against the Pirates 2-3 zone, sputtered in transition and committed 15 turnovers, including 10 in the first half.
Cal didn’t shake the pesky Pirates until late in the second half.
“We just didn’t move the ball well. We got stagnant,” said Tyrone Wallace, who had 20 points and has led the Bears in scoring in all three games this season. “We didn’t do as well as we would have liked to on offense. But never once did we have our head down.”
The Bears trailed midway through the first half before pulling away late in the first-ever meeting between the schools.
Rabb was at the center of Cal’s surge.
The highly touted freshman scored on a pair of emphatic dunks in the first 5 minutes of the second half. He also converted a key three-point play, and then had an assist on a backdoor layup for Bird with 1:52 remaining.
Rabb went 5 of 7 from the floor and added a season-high five blocks in his second double-double of the year.
Michael Zangari matched his career high of 17 points for East Carolina.
“We got good looks against a switching man-to-man defense, which is hard to play against,” Pirates coach Jeff Lebo said. “We just didn’t shoot it as well as we would have liked.”
Cal got off to a sloppy start on both ends of the court, allowing East Carolina to stay close despite shooting 29.6 percent in the first half.
Wallace had five turnovers but made up for it with a big second half when he scored 10 of Cal’s final 19 points.
East Carolina kept it close behind another strong game from leading scorer Caleb White. White had 17 points, including seven straight during a 57-second span in the second half.
SHOOTING BLUES: The Bears couldn’t shake the Pirates primarily due to their problems on free throws and at the 3-point line. Cal went 19 of 31 from the stripe, including a pair of misses by Wallace down the stretch with the game still in doubt. The numbers were even worse on 3s, as Cal went 3 for 23 from beyond the arc. “That (zone) defense had a lot to do with it,” Martin said.
ZANGARI BEAKS OUT: Zangari had made just two 3-pointers in his previous three years at East Carolina but matched that in the first half against Cal. Zangari went into the night averaging 3.5 points a game but gave the Pirates a much-needed offensive boost and went 2 of 5 from beyond the arc.
East Carolina: The Pirates missed their first nine shots and finished 18 of 55 from the floor. ... This was the first of four straight road games for Lebo’s squad. ... East Carolina still has not won a road game against a ranked opponent since toppling then-No. 13 Marquette on Dec. 30, 2002.
California: The Bears are 3-0 for the second consecutive season. ... Jordan Mathews went 1 of 6 on 3-pointers after going into the night 5 of 11 beyond the arc. ... Cal finished with a 45-26 rebounding edge following its slow start.
East Carolina: At San Diego State on Monday night.
California: Hosts Sam Houston State on Monday night.