By Morris Phillips
Soon after the opening tip on Monday at Haas Pavilion, things went south for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
The Cal Bears scored the first six baskets of the game and established an early 14-0 lead. From there, the Bears cruised to a 75-47 victory to improve to 4-0 on the young season.
“It was 12-0 before we knew it, and we had a hard time coming back from that,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “We got some good shots, but they weren’t falling for us.”
Robinson was a role player on Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s best and final teams at Stanford, graduating there in 2005. In a short time since, Robinson has elevated himself to a Division I head coach after several stints as an assistant at various programs.
While Robinson’s rapid ascent is quite impressive, his team’s performance on Monday wasn’t. The Thunderbirds struggled with the bigger, quicker Bears from the jump.
“We substituted a lot early,” Montgomery said. “It seemed pretty obvious that they were outmatched.”
“They were flat-out better than we were,” Robinson said. “(Cal) was more disciplined defensively, they did a great job on the boards, and hit open shots that we weren’t capable of hitting.”
All 13 Bears that suited up got action in the first half on Monday. And although the frequent substitutions didn’t do much for continuity, it didn’t affect progress on the scoreboard. The Bears led 33-10 after 15 minutes with the Thunderbirds shooting 22 percent in the first half.
Richard Solomon contributed 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the win. Tyrone Wallace had 15, and the trio of Ricky Kreklow, Jordan Mathews and David Kravish had nine each.
A.J. Hess led Southern Utah with 15 points. The Thunderbirds shot 29 percent for the game and committed 15 turnovers.
Cal sees a jump in competition on Monday when they travel to Maui and open the Invitational against Arkansas.