Riverside comes out fast to beat California 74-66
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Alex Larsson scored a career-high 15 points and had 13 rebounds, Brandon Rosser added 13 points as UC Riverside built an early double-digit lead and beat California 74-66 on Friday night in the season-opener for both teams.
The Highlanders returned four starters from last year’s team that won only seven games and were picked to finish eighth in the Big West preseason poll this season but had no problem against the Golden Bears in California coach Wyking Jones’ debut.
“We’ve got a good team and we’ve got some good pieces,” Riverside coach Dennis Cutts said. “They’re a confident group and they work hard. It was good to see them get rewarded.”
Riverside opened the game with a 10-0 run and led by as many as 23 points in the first half while repeatedly breaking Cal’s trapping defense.
The Bears pulled within 62-53 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining before Dikymbe Martin made a short jumper and Dominick Pickett added a 3-pointer to help Riverside pull away.
Martin finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
“No one really counted us to have any part in this game,” Martin said. “Before this game I was watching Utah Valley against Kentucky and you’re like, ‘Anything’s possible.’ And it is.”
Donald Coleman had a career-high 32 points for California while Kingsley Okoroh - the Bears’ lone returning starter - had five points, 18 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks.
“That’s a tough one,” Jones said. “From the jump we have to do a better job of coming out and taking care of business and not sizing up our opponent.”
Riverside: It was the perfect start to the season and a nice litmus test for Dennis Cutts’ team, which won despite having four players foul out. The Highlanders outhustled the Bears most of the night and controlled the paint which allowed them to get off to the fast start and not look back.
California: The Bears looked very much like a team whose program is starting over. The offense never found a consistent rhythm and committed 11 turnovers that led to 18 points. Marcus Lee, a transfer from Kentucky, scored eight points in his debut.
HIGHLIGHT REEL: After Cal scored its first points of the season, Koh Flippin got the ball on the ensuing possession, drove the baseline and finished with a soaring one-handed dunk that had many of the Highlanders on the bench leaping to their feet.
STAT OF THE NIGHT: The Bears scored on consecutive possessions only once in the first half.
BLOCK PARTY: Okoroh’s seven blocks also tied Cal’s single-game record set by Michael Stewart, who did it three times. Okoroh set the school’s single-season record with 74 blocks in 2016 and has 142 blocks overall, third on the Bears’ all-time list.
Riverside: Returns to Southern California to play at Loyola Marymount on Wednesday. The Highlanders play eight of their 14 non-conference games on the road.
California: Hosts Cal Poly at Haas Pavilion on Sunday afternoon before playing in the Maui Invitational beginning Nov. 16.