Bruins blitzed by Golden Bears
If ever a game was decided in the opening minutes of the first half that was certainly the case on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion.
The Cal Golden Bears appeared to be shot out of a cannon in a 76-63 win over UCLA in a Pac-12 contest, which also dubbed as the Pete Newell Classic.
In a game that was supposed to be a showcase for the top two scorers in the conference, Cal's Allen Crabbe and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, the first half battle ended up being as one-sided as the game itself.
Muhammad was stuck in neutral. The UCLA freshman guard picked up his second personal foul with 16:46 left in the first half and had to go to the bench.
UCLA (18-7, 8-4 Pac-12) trailed 4-3 at the time, but that's when the Cal blitz ensued and it was Crabbe leading the charge.
The Cal junior picked up where he left off Sunday night when his 31-point effort led the Golden Bears (15-9, 7-5 Pac-12) to a win over then-No. 7 Arizona.
The former Price High star in Los Angeles hit UCLA from all different angles.
He nailed a step-back jumper.
He took dribble handoffs on the wing and attacked a paint left vacant by a struggling UCLA defense.
He showed his athleticism by being able to finish with authority on the break.
Once the first 20 minutes were done in Berkeley, he had 15 points. At that point he scored 46 points in last 54 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Muhammad had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting because of first half foul trouble.
Cal shot 58 percent in the first half. UCLA could only muster 30 percent.
"You have to have a mental toughness and a mindset to be able to handle that, come back, and diffuse that problem, and go forward," UCLA assistant coach Scott Garson said. "We never really did.
"When we got down, we took some really ill-advised shots. They led to easier shots for them and it really put us in the hole."
At one point in the first half, Crabbe had as many points, 13, as UCLA had as a team when the Golden Bears led the Bruins 35-13 with 6:38 to play in the half.
It was the best of times for the Golden Bears and the worst of times for the Bruins. The 22 first half points scored by UCLA in the first half was a season low. The 47 first half points scored by Cal was a season high.
Essentially Crabbe was done after that point. He scored just one point in the second half. Then again, he wasn't needed to do much more. David Kravish picked up the slack with eight points and five rebounds in the second half on his way to a double-double, 18 points and 13 boards. UCLA never got any closer than 12 points in the second half.
Instead of using last Saturday as a springboard to get back on track and hold onto their top spot in the conference, the Bruins reverted back to their old ways.
The Bruins shot 37.7 percent from the field. It's the fourth time in the last five games the Bruins failed to break the 40 percent barrier.
As UCLA head coach Ben Howland mentioned earlier in the week, his team was going to have to be better on the boards if they are to have any chance of winning a conference championship.
They were outrebounded by the Golden Bears 41-33. 12 of those rebounds were on the offensive end for Cal leading to 15 second chance points.
It's the 14th straight game UCLA has given up double digit offensive rebounds to the opposition.
"We're not going to win very many more games if we're not a better defensive rebounding team," Garson said. "We need to defensive rebound or we're going to get hurt. We're playing teams that are too good."
UCLA is going to catch another hot team in the Bay Area on Saturday. Stanford won four of their last five games entering Thursday. UCLA has to get at least a split during this trip or potentially face being two games out of first place.
Suffice to say, Saturday's game in Palo Alto is important. Just how important?
"Very, very, very important," Garson said.