Jordan Mathews scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half, and California routed No. 23 Syracuse 73-59 on Thursday night to reach the championship game of the 2K Classic.
California (3-0) seized control by hitting four straight 3-pointers late in the first half and cruised to its first big victory of the Cuonzo Martin era. Jabari Bird added 16 points.
The Golden Bears will face No. 10 Texas, which beat Iowa 71-57 in the first semifinal, on Friday night.
Kaleb Joseph and Michael Gbinije each scored 13 points for Syracuse (2-1), which couldn't get much going in front of its orange-clad fans at Madison Square Garden. Leading scorer Rakeem Christmas was limited to eight points before fouling out with 6:23 left and Syracuse trailing by 14 points. He came in averaging 18 points and 12.5 rebounds.
The Bears finally broke through in the third meeting between the teams in the last three seasons. Syracuse ousted Cal in the 2013 NCAA tournament en route to the Final Four and beat the Bears again a year ago in the Maui Invitational.
This time, Cal's four straight 3s, two by Bird, extended a two-point edge to 34-20 in the final minute of the first half. He made another for the Bears' first basket of the season half before Mathews, who had just a pair of free throws before halftime, took charge of the offense.
His three free throws after being fouled made it a 17-point game and he followed with a layup that pushed it to 47-28 with about 15 minutes left.
California: The Bears had scored 90 points in their first two games under Martin, the former Tennessee coach. They hadn't done that in consecutive games since 2002. ... As a freshman, Bird had 17 points in the Bears' 92-81 loss to the Orange last year in Maui.
Syracuse: Syracuse was playing its 168th game at Madison Square Garden. The longtime Big East members have played a game here in 33 straight seasons. ... The Orange hadn't allowed either of their first two opponents to reach 48 points. Cal reached that total with almost 12 minutes to play.
California: Against No. 10 Texas on Friday.
Syracuse: Against Iowa on Friday.