Cal confounds ASU with stingy zone, wins 68-43

February 8, 2017

Cal Bears, NCAA

California guard Grant Mullins (3) points to a teammate after hitting a 3-pointer against Arizona State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. California defeated Arizona State 68-43. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Sports Radio Service
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. – California had basic defensive game plan going into its Pac-12 men’s basketball game against Arizona State – play zone and stay with it.

That strategy, combined with a struggling Sun Devils offense, allowed the Golden Bears to prevail 68-43 before an announced late Wednesday night crowd of 5,107 at Wells Fargo Arena.

It was an impressive win for the Golden Bears, who have won five consecutive conference games, and eight of their last nine. ASU hasn’t won consecutive games since beating Central Arkansas and Stanford at the end of December. Since then, the Sun Devils have lost eight of their last 11 games, including a Jan. 1 81-65 defeat at Cal.

Switching from a 1-2-2 to a 3-2 zone with few exceptions, Cal (18-6 overall, 9-3 Pac-12) held the Devils to 24 percent shooting (7 of 29) in the first half and 25 percent (15 of 59) for the game.

“From start to finish against a quality opponent, that’s as good as we’ve played defense all season,” Golden Bears Coach Cuonzo Martin said. “To beat a Pac-12 team on their home floor the way we defended is very impressive.

“We might have played two possessions of man. We just felt that coming into a game like this, it would be a tough night for us if have to defend those guys man-to-man. We felt that playing a zone gave us the best chance to win this game.”

“Their zone bothered us a lot,” ASU Coach Bobby Hurley said. “We struggled on offense. We thought our defense was solid in the first half. It was just one of those nights, where if we’re shooting like that we’re going to struggle offensively.”

They had us bottled up pretty good, guys were struggling with not making shots,” Hurley continued. “We’ve done pretty well against teams that zoned us earlier this year and I thought we would do well against them.

“We had a lot of hope we could turn it around, but things just didn’t go our way.”

The rim at both ends seemed to have a lid on it for everyone except Grant Mullins, who 6 of 9 from behind the arc, and another 6 of 9 2-pointers for a game-high 18 points. Ivan Rabb scored 14 points, followed by Charlie Moore with 11.

Arizona State (11-14 overall, 4-8 Pac-12) finished the first half with a 6-minute scoring drought that continued into the second half. Mullins opened the second half with one of his six 3-pointers, opening up a 31-17 Cal lead.

A Mullin 3-pointer capped a 14-8 run that put the Bears up 46-26 while Arizona State continued to struggle offensively.

“The ball has to touch Ivan’s hands,” Martin said. “We knew they were doubling up on him, freeing up Charlie and Grant.”

Jabari Bird’s field goal with 3:45 left gave the Bears their first 25-point lead at 64-39. Cal’s biggest lead came when Sam Singer’s put-back with 1:45 remaining gave the Bears a 68-41 advantage.

Rabb grabbed 11 boards, as the Bears outrebounded ASU 48-29. Cal finished with 47 percent shooting (26 of 55), including 8 of 23 on 3-pointers.

Obinna Oleka pulled down 14 rebounds and led the Sun Devils with 14 points.

California’s next road stop is Saturday in Tucson, when the Golden Bears visit McKale Center to face Arizona. The Wildcats are ranked No. 9 by AP, No. 10 by the coaches.

TAGS: University of California,Golden Bears,men’s basketball,Ivan Rabb,Grant Mullins,Arizona State


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