Published February 15, 2013
BERKELEY, Calif. – Allen Crabbe extended his arms out wide and flashed three fingers on both hands. David Kravish and Richard Solomon chest-bumped each other, screaming in celebration. Mike Montgomery just took a seat on the bench and smiled.
At long last this season, California has the look of a consistent winner.
Kravish had a career-high 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Solomon added 17 points and eight rebounds, and California coasted past UCLA 76-63 on Thursday night behind a big first half.
"This is the team we should have been all season," Kravish said. "This is the team we can be."
Cal sure made it look that way.
Crabbe, the Pac-12's leading scorer entering the game, had 15 of his 16 points in the first half to help the Golden Bears (15-9, 7-5) sprint out to a 28-point lead before the break. He finished with five assists and five rebounds as Cal held off the Bruins (18-7, 8-4) for its fourth win in five games, including three over the conference's top teams.
Justin Cobbs added 12 points and nine assists, feeding Cal's remarkably efficient big men. Kravish finished 8 for 11 from the floor, while Solomon was 8 for 10.
"You can't ask for a better night from both of them," Crabbe said.
Jordan Adams scored 15 points, and Shabazz Muhammad had 13 points and 11 rebounds, for UCLA, which hasn't won at Haas Pavilion since a 76-75 overtime victory on Jan. 6, 2010. After two wins last weekend, the Bruins blew a chance to stay in control of its league title chase before the halftime buzzer sounded.
"The first half of basketball, we couldn't do anything right," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "And they did everything right."
Indeed, the Bears blitzed the Bruins from the opening tip.
Getting a lift from a raucous home crowd announced at 9,854, the only thing flashier than Cal's slick passing and penetration was its swagger. High-rising dunks. No-look passes. Blocked shots that landed in the stands.
Cal's confidence echoed throughout Haas Pavilion, and the Bears played with a sort of swagger in front of a national television audience as if they wanted another NCAA tournament berth. Cal scored 15 straight points during one stretch in the first half, holding UCLA without a basket for almost 6 minutes.
Crabbe capped the spurt with a 3-pointer that put Cal ahead 35-13, extending his arms out wide and flashing three fingers on both hands as a frustrated Howland signaled for timeout. The 6-foot-6 junior followed with a one-handed dunk on a fast break, nodding his head to the Cal football team sitting behind that basket.
"It was just fun," Crabbe said. "You know when you're beating a team like that and everybody is involved and playing great team defense and everybody on offense is scoring, everybody's just happy. Everybody's on the same page. Everybody's confident. It just makes you want to play."
The Bears outshot UCLA 59 percent to 30 percent in the first half. They led by 28 points before David Wear hit a 3-pointer to slice Cal's lead to 47-22 at the break.
"They were jacked," Montgomery said.
But Cal hardly had a complete performance. UCLA started the second half on 14-4 run to trim the deficit to 15 points. Montgomery called timeout, and his players responded the way they hadn't earlier this season.
The Bears scored nine straight to regain control. Kravish capped the brief burst with a put-back layup while getting fouled by Travis Wear, then completed the three-point play to give Cal a 60-36 lead that UCLA could never overcome.
After losing 79-65 at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 3, Cal gave UCLA all it could handle back home.
Adams' 3-pointer with 5:58 remaining brought the Bruins within 14 points, and they didn't get closer until the final seconds. In the end, the only thing UCLA's late push did was avoid its most lopsided loss this season — a 78-60 defeat at Arizona State on Jan. 26 — but the Bruins still were showered with chants from Cal fans of "Over-rated!"
"I thought the way we fought back in the second half showed some good character," Howland said, "but you know their big guys killed us."
The game also ended a difficult four-game stretch for Cal, which faced the Pac-12 leader or co-leader for the third time in the past four games. They beat Oregon and Arizona — ranked 10th and seventh at the time, respectively — but lost at Arizona State during the run.
The Bears also began a stretch of five of the final seven regular-season games at home.
"There's no reason not to be excited," Montgomery said. "We've got to stay excited about everybody. That's going to be the key for us."