C.J. Wilcox scored 19 points and Washington charged to a 14-point halftime lead to bury the Bears in Berkeley.
BERKELEY, Calif. — Flanked by his 3-year-old brother, Tyson, outside the visiting locker room at Haas Pavilion, C.J. Wilcox talked about how the Washington Huskies changed their identity.
In the past month, they’ve morphed from a jump-shooting team that desperately relied on its offense to a defensive-minded squad able to dominate even when shots aren’t falling.
The Huskies shot 36.8 percent from the field and hit just 2 of 11 three-point attempts and still routed California 62-47 Wednesday night.
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“On the road, we know we’re not going to shoot the ball well, so we have to play aggressive defense and rebound as much as possible,” said Wilcox, who finished with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds. “Like tonight, when you shoot the percentage that we did, our defense and rebounding helped us win.”
Cal’s point total was a season low for a Washington opponent and the fewest for the Golden Bears since Nov. 26, 2010.
And yet, as good as the Huskies were defensively, the rebound disparity told the story. The Huskies pummeled Cal 43-33 on the glass, including a 20-11 advantage in offensive rebounds.
It got so bad for the Bears, you could hear the groans echo around the 79-year-old building each time Washington missed a shot and collected another rebound.
When Scott Suggs missed a short jumper in the first half, reserve forward Jernard Jarreau cleaned the glass for a putback.
When a Wilcox floater rattled out in the second half, 6-foot-2 guard Andrew Andrews sailed over 6-10 Richard Solomon for the rebound and scored.
And when Cal desperately needed the ball, the Huskies gobbled up almost every missed shot and rebound.
“It wasn’t just one person, not just me, but it was everybody who had a hand in getting rebounds, loose balls or just crashing the boards,” said Aziz N’Diaye, who finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. “That’s what was missing, I guess, early in the season.”
Washington (10-5, 2-0 Pac-12) hardly looks like the team that began the season 3-4 with home defeats against Albany, Colorado State and Nevada.
Back then, wins and losses hinged on whether the offense was productive.
Lately, the Huskies’ defense has led them to consecutive road wins, including last weekend’s 68-63 victory at Washington State.
Coach Lorenzo Romar attributes the change in style and personality to the return of injured players who give the Huskies an eight-man rotation.
“When you don’t have your personnel with us, the way we try to defend, it’s just hard for guys to do that the entire time,” he said. “Now that we have healthy bodies, we’re playing more like the way we are capable of playing defensively.”
“The tone was set right from the outset,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “When there was a 50-50 ball, they got it. We didn’t get it, they got it. And got second-chance points. Aziz was huge in there, as far as a physical presence.”
The Bears (9-6, 1-2) received 14 points from David Kravish while Suggs held Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, to nine — 12 fewer than his average.
“They just played harder than us,” Crabbe said.
Tied 18-18 midway in the first half, Washington went on a 16-0 run. UW led 34-20 at the break.
The Huskies smothered Crabbe, frustrated Cal’s star point guard Justin Cobbs and had Montgomery shouting on the sideline, “What floor are we on?”
What floor, indeed.
Haas Pavilion might as well have been Alaska Airlines Arena because the Huskies strolled into Berkeley and made themselves at home.
They’re the first team in the Pac-12 with two conference wins on the road, and suddenly things are looking up for a team that began league play with doubts.
“If we play defense like we’re capable, then we can play with anybody,” N’Diaye said.
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Percentages: FG .368, FT .769. Three-point goals: 2-11, .182 (Andrews 1-3, Wilcox 1-4, Simmons 0-1, Gaddy 0-1, Suggs 0-2). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 6 (N’Diaye 4, Suggs, Wilcox). Turnovers: 6 (Suggs 2, Andrews 2, N’Diaye 2). Steals: 5 (Simmons 2, Jarreau, Andrews, Wilcox).
Percentages: FG .377, FT .375. Three-point goals: 1-6, .167 (Crabbe 1-4, Wallace 0-1, Cobbs 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 4 (Kravish 2, Crabbe 2). Turnovers: 10 (Crabbe 3, Thurman 3, Wallace, Solomon, Kravish, Cobbs). Steals: 2 (Kravish, Crabbe).
Attendance: 6,856. Officials: Daryl Gelinas, Chris Rastatter, Michael Irving.