By Morris Phillips
Ricky Kreklow has suited up and managed to play just 14 times since he transferred from Missouri to Berkley three seasons ago. Forced to sit and watch in his transfer year, then frustrated by his nagging injuries and frustrating to the coaches who knew how his scoring ability could positively affect the team, the redshirt junior had been the missing ingredient needed to transform the Cal Bears into one of the nation’s better offensive teams.
On Monday afternoon in Maui, Kreklow may have officially added his talents to the mix.
Kreklow boosted the Bears with a career-best 17 points as Cal pulled away in the second half in their 85-77 win over Arkansas in the Maui Invitational tournament opener.
The Bears shot 53 percent in the second half, enjoyed a healthy edge 48-32 on the glass, and trailed only twice all afternoon. Arkansas’ final lead was 35-34 and the Bears responded with a 13-4 run in the ensuing three minutes. The Razorbacks forced 18 turnovers but couldn’t shoot well enough—35 percent in the first half, and 37 percent for the game–to threaten Cal in the final 15 minutes.
The Bears will face No. 8 Syracuse on Tuesday in the Maui semifinals at 4pm. No. 18 Baylor and Dayton will face off in the nightcap. The Flyers rallied to upset No. 11 Gonzaga, 84-79.
Cal moved to 5-0 on the young season and passed their most significant test to date after wins in four matchups with teams in the bottom third of Division I. The Razorbacks of the SEC fell to 3-1 after notable wins over SMU and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Five Bears scored in double figures led by David Kravish with 19. Jabari Bird and Justin Cobbs added 15 points each. Richard Solomon had 11 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 20 minutes of action due to foul trouble.
Michael Qualls led Arkansas with 21 points off the bench, and Bobby Portis scored five points to lead the Razorbacks’ starters. Qualls and Anthlon Bell—who added 16 points—started Arkansas’ first three games, but came off the bench against California in a team-mandated disciplinary move.
Cal won’t see the same Orangemen that ended in their season in the NCAA tournament second round last spring. Of Syracuse’s top scorers, only C.J. Fair remains. Fair had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the Orangemen’s 85-77 win over Minnesota.