FRESNO, Calif. – California's Tyrone Wallace long ago had circled Sunday's game at Fresno State, where he was set to play his first game in the central San Joaquin Valley since his celebrated high school career.
Wallace, who was considered one of the nation's top 100 prep players when coming out of Bakersfield High in 2012, did not disappoint. Though, Fresno State's Marvelle Harris tried hard to ruin the homecoming of sorts.
Wallace scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half and provided a dunk in the closing minute that helped Cal weather Harris' game-high 27 points and secure a 64-57 victory.
"It was definitely exciting," said Wallace, whose hometown is roughly 100 miles from Fresno. "We don't get home too much, especially during the season. I was excited to play here in front of my friends and family."
The Bears, who lead the all-time series 6-1 against the Bulldogs, were making their first visit to Fresno since 1999 and playing in their first true road game of the season under first-year coach Cuonzon Martin. The Bears did go 2-1 earlier this month at the 2K Classic in New York, which included a win against then-No. 23 Syracuse.
Against Fresno State, the Bears made 14 of their first 23 shots and led by as many as 15 points thanks in part to an early 22-4 run sparked by Wallace. The junior provided a pair of highlights, converting a nifty layup through traffic then a 3-pointer on the Bears' next possession that placed Cal ahead 33-18.
Wallace finished 8 of 14 from the field, and provided 10 rebounds and two steals. Teammate David Kravish added 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
"Tyrone is one of the best at getting to the rim," Martin said. "I thought he did a great job attacking the rim, making plays, putting pressure on the defense, finding out big guys, finding our perimeter guys.
"That's the way he knows how to play. He always competes. Anytime a guy goes home, he wants to play well for his home fans. Tyrone played hard."
Still, Cal found itself needing to hold on during the final minute after going scoreless for 4:34 during the second half as the Bulldogs turned up the half-court defensive pressure and got within five.
But Fresno State's rally was thwarted with a costly turnover with roughly a minute remaining, attempting a long outlet pass off a defensive rebound. The Bulldogs then shot two air balls. The Bulldogs also made just 2 for 5 free throws in the final 3 ½ minutes.
Fresno State (1-6) dropped its fifth straight as it roughs out the early portion of its season without senior point guard Cezar Guerrero, who was ruled ineligible for the fall semester for not meeting NCAA eligibility requirements. Guerrero started in 38 of 39 games last season and averaged 13.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds.
"At the end of the game, that's when your guards really manage games for you," Fresno State coach Rodney Terry said. "They manage getting you in your sets, getting you in your execution from an offensive standpoint. And at the end of the game, they've got to make free throws to close things out."
Harris finished with a season-high in points off 9 of 17 shooting. But Harris also was limited to eight points in the second half, defended well by Cal's Sam Singer and Roger Moute a Bidias.
After Julien Lewis made 1 of 2 free throws to cut Cal's lead to 60-55 with 1:45 left, both teams struggled to score. The Bears finally snapped out of their near five-minute scoreless streak with a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining.
"Anytime you get a road win, you get it and keep moving," Martin said. "There's a lot for us to learn. We did enough to get the win."
Cal: Senior David Kravis is closing on the Bears' career blocks record after registering three against Fresno State. Kravis had 191 career blocks, just 16 behind Michael Stewart's record of 207 from 1994-97.
Fresno State: Junior Marvelle Harris, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring, has posted 20 or more points in nine career games.
Cal returns home to host Montana on Wednesday.
Fresno State will host UC Irvine on Wednesday.
MARTIN ON FRESNO STATE
Despite the poor start from a Fresno State team that entered the season with high expectations in coach Rodney Terry's fourth season, Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said he sees the Bulldogs making progress.
"They have talented basketball players," Martin said. "Just because they're struggling doesn't mean they don't have talent. But they made plays. We did enough to get the win. I thought it was a good effort for our guys. They really pushed us, got us out of our comfort zone for a 7-8 minute mark."
Major League pitcher Danny Duffy, a starter for the American League champion Kansas City Royals, attended Sunday's game. Duffy did not go to school at either university but was at the game as a guest of a Fresno State administrator.
Incoming Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko also attended the game as part of his weekend visit to Fresno. Bartko, who was hired Nov. 21 by Fresno State, still is wrapping up his responsibilities as Oregon's executive senior associate athletic director through the remainder of the calendar year. Bartko served as Cal's senior associate athletic director for development during the 2006-07 school year.