By Morris Philips
Jeff Powers hadn’t played much thus far this season. But given an opportunity, the senior forward not only played well, he provided the injury-riddled Cal Bears a much-needed lift.
Cal overwhelmed final non-conference opponent Furman, 90-60 on Saturday at Haas Pavilion, and the game was firmly in the grasp of the Bears when the Powers’ show started, but it was a show nonetheless with reserve hitting six straight three-pointers after missing his first attempt 12 minutes in.
For Coach Mike Montgomery Powers’ display wasn’t just a feel good story, but a potential strategic wrinkle for the Bears with three straight road games coming up to start the Pac-12 schedule. The Bears are currently without swingman Ricky Kreklow who has a broken hand, and top freshman Jabari Bird, who twisted his ankle in the previous game against Creighton. Given the absence of those two, the Bears need offense, even better if that offense comes from the perimeter.
“If somebody watched the game and scouted they’d say we need to guard him, we can shoot it,” Montgomery said. “It means now that the floor is more open for the other people to move because they need to guard him. Creighton just packed the box. They put everybody in the paint and dared us. Nobody was scoring the ball.”
Powers’ first make came with the Bears already leading by 13 with eight minutes remaining in the first half. In the next three minutes, the catch-and-shoot specialist buried a couple of more as the Cal lead ballooned to 18 points at the half. With the game out of hand midway through the second half, Powers came on and buried three more long distance shots.
Not bad for a guy who transferred from tiny University of Denver only to spend a lot of time on the bench over the last 2 ½ seasons. Coming in, Powers had scored just two points and played 21 minutes in Cal’s first 12 games.
“I really wasn’t coming into tonight’s game saying I want to have 18 points and shoot 6-for-7,” Powers said. “The shots fell, nothing really else I can say. When I put in the amount of hours I have over the years, I expect them to go in. I just think my teammates did a really good job of finding me when I did start hitting a couple with Justin, Sam.”
According to disappointed Furman coach Nico Medved, the defense Powers faced wasn’t very good. Medved felt that when his Paladins didn’t enjoy success offensively early in the game, they lost their zest at the defensive end. The Southern Conference opponent from Columbia, South Carolina trailed by as many as 35 late in the game, and lost for the third time in their last four games.
“As a young team, when things go well, we play pretty well, but when things don’t go well for stretches, it’s when we kind of collapse and go our separate ways. I think that’s what happened tonight,” Medved said.
William Gates, Jr. led Furman with 13 points. Larry Wideman and Stephen Croone contributed 11 points each.
Cal got 18 points each from Justin Cobbs and Tyrone Wallace as the pair combined to make 17 of 23 shots. The Bears shot 60 percent for the game, canned 10 3-pointers and committed just five turnovers on the afternoon.
The Bears open conference play on Thursday at Stanford before a trip to Oregon the following week to face the Ducks and the Beavers.