BERKELEY, Calif. – Before Wednesday, the Washington men’s basketball team had been able to survive and thrive in recent games with its undersized four-guard lineup. The Huskies overcame their height disparity with quick, swarming defense and a hot-shooting offense.
Against California, however, they couldn’t overcome the Golden Bears’ tall front line, which curtailed the frigid UW offense.
“They had a lot of length all around the floor,” C.J. Wilcox said after the 82-56 defeat. “They got into the passing lanes. They got deflections. We couldn’t really get into the flow in our offense. They disrupted a lot of it. They were switching a lot of stuff and we hadn’t really dealt with that.
“But overall, they just outplayed us.”
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Wilcox managed 18 points on 7-for-15 shooting, but the rest of the team combined to convert just 12 of 48 field goals for a team shooting percentage of 30.2. No other UW player had more than seven points.
After winning five of the previous six games, including Sunday’s victory over then-No. 17 Colorado, the Huskies thought they were capable of playing with the best teams in the conference.
However, in Cal’s Pac-12 home opener in front of 8,072 at Haas Pavilion, Washington resembled the team that stumbled in November, not the team that was 3-1 in the Pac-12 before facing Cal.
“We couldn’t really do anything right,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We were outrebounded. We didn’t shoot the ball well. We didn’t finish.
“They chewed us up when they had the basketball. They beat us pretty soundly.”
Cal held UW to just 17 points at halftime. By the end, the Bears had more rebounds (44 to 33), assists (22 to 12), points in the paint (38 to 26), points off turnovers (10 to 4), second-chance points (10-6), fast-break points (16 to 8), bench points (28 to 16) and blocks (7 to 1).
“Defensively, we were good,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We started the game nervous. We hadn’t played at home in a month. We missed some really easy shots early but then got it going a little bit.”
Washington started hot and converted four of their first eight shots for an 8-2 lead with 15:40 left.
However, the Huskies had just three field goals on 21 attempts (14.2 percent) the remainder of the first half.
Cal rebounded from a 1-for-5 shooting display at the start and used a 7-0 run to pull ahead 9-8. The Bears never trailed again.
The Huskies had trouble with 6-foot-10 forward Richard Solomon (13 points and 12 rebounds) and 6-9 forward David Kravish (11 and 11).
“Their size bothered us as much as anybody we’ve played in a long time,” Romar said. “They were on the offensive glass. They blocked shots. They altered a lot of our shots around the rim.”
The Huskies also lost track of reserve Jeff Powers, Cal’s three-point specialist, a couple of times early, and he burned them on open jumpers. His three-pointer put Cal ahead 16-10 and he drained a midrange jumper to stake the Bears to a 22-11 lead.
Washington trailed 30-17 at halftime. It was the lowest scoring half this season for the Huskies, and things didn’t get much better after the break.
Powers (12 points) thrilled the crowd when he banked in a three-pointer despite being knocked to the floor on a hard foul from Andrew Andrews. Powers sank the ensuing free throw and Cal led 47-26 with 13:18 left.
Tyrone Wallace led the Bears with 14 points and Justin Cobbs added 11. Cal (13-4, 4-0 Pac-12) won its fifth straight game and remained perfect in nine home games.
Washington fell to 11-7 and 3-2. The Huskies can salvage a split during its second Pac-12 trip with a win Saturday at Stanford.
“We had a setback tonight against a very good basketball team,” Romar said. “We have another game on Saturday. We have to regroup, come back and play.”