On the opening tip, 6'10'' Richard Solomon took on 7'6'' Mamadou Ndiaye, and outleapt the tallest man in Division 1 basketball. A few plays later, Ndiaye went up in the post, only to have Jabari Bird sky in from the weak side to block his shot. A few minutes later, Ndiaye was on the bench with two fouls, and he would never have a major impact on the game.
As Scott detailed in his preview, UCI is one of the tallest teams in the country, and it goes beyond their 7'6'' center. But height isn't everything, as Cal's 'undersized' interior players ably demonstrated. The Bears were led by David Kravish and Richard Solomon, looking stylish in shades to protect his eyes after returning from the scratched cornea he suffered in Maui.
Kravish and Solomon combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds, and it was good to see the post duo back to their usual selves after Maui. Kravish in particular was an even more efficient version of his usually efficient self, and Solomon did a good job drawing fouls despite picking up two early (and frankly, a bit silly) fouls that limited his time on the court in the first half.
Irvine likely won't be happy with their performance, particularly in terms of shooting. Then again, Cal is almost assuredly the best defense Irvine has faced so far this year, and the Bears played typically fundamental, unspectacular Monty defense. The Anteaters finished below 30% from the field and the Bears did a good job securing the defensive glass.
Cal received strong contributions from their backcourt as well. Tyrone Wallace had a couple of spectacular finishes in transition and was very active on the defensive glass. Jabari Bird was the 2nd leading scorer, and Justin Cobbs decided that he didn't need to score, and as a result dished out twice as many assists (9) as he had shots attempted (4). There likely won't be a ton of games in which the Bears can win easily without getting some scoring from Cobbs, but it's a good sign that they can easily beat a decent team with a variety of contributors.
What can we take away from this game? Probably not a ton that we didn't know already. This team is better when Kravish and Solomon are both playing. When the Bears are the more athletic team, they will almost always win. Various other blindingly obvious realities. It's good to see the Bears bounce back from some disappointment against a dangerous team, but UCI isn't a team that should pose a threat to this year's Cal team, regardless of the circumstances.
Cal will be back in action on Friday on the road against UC Santa Barbara, a game that could very well result in a loss if the Bears aren't playing their best basketball. Today's performance is a solid indication that they're ready to do just that.