The Bears came into Wednesday night’s game missing more than a few key contributors. Ivan Rabb was a game time decision and was ruled out. Grant Mullins was scratched after shoot around with neck spasms and Jabari Bird was scrapped due to back spasms. The story for the Bears would be who would show up on offense and all evening it was consistently true freshman Charlie Moore.
In what was a relatively even matchup for most of the first half, the Bears were paced by the previously mentioned Charlie Moore. Moore had 11 first half points on four of eight shooting and felt like the Bears only option down the floor.
Max Hazzard, a former Mike Montgomery target, led the Anteaters in the first half with nine points in eleven minutes.
The referees did Cal no favors, epitomized by an awful call on an and one play by Moore which was inexplicably called a foul on the floor. Haas Pavilion treated the referees to a loud chorus of boos as they exited the half and Cal looked to regroup down eight.
Irvine came out strong out of the gates and put the Bears in a 12 point hole. Charlie Moore once again led the Bears and accounted for all of Cal’s offensive production for the first six and a half minutes after the break.
Finally the Bears offense started to come to life as Singer had a few nice drives through the lane and Kam Rooks emerged as a scoring option in the paint. One of the most noticeable differences from the first half for Cal was the level of play on defense. The Bears were much more aggressive, playing with renewed energy and forcing UCI to earn every basket.
The Bears finally started to break into the Irvine lead when Rooks completed a three point play to bring the deficit back to five. Irvine’s Max Hazzard hit a big three to put the lead at ten before Cal responded with Singer again finding Rooks on the low block. Irvine guard Jaron Martin was impressive all night and seemingly had a response each time the Bears started to mount a comeback.
The Bears reduced the deficit to two points after Stephen Domingo hit a big three and Charlie Moore executed a nifty step back jumper with 7:30 left, forcing UCI to call a timeout. After the break the aforementioned Martin would respond again and UCI would put the lead back up to eight. It was at this time that it looked as though Cal’s home winning streak was in serious trouble.
Luckily for Cal fans, the Charlie Moore express was just heating up. Moore would hit a ridiculous, off balance three which immediately UCI would get back with a triple from their center. Moore then drove down the court and scored again on another acrobatic play, bringing his total on the evening to 27 points. Cal found themselves down five with about two and a half minutes to play when Charlie Moore hit another basket while getting fouled. He would head to the line and hit the free throw to bring the game within two with just under two minutes to play.
Cal continued to play tremendous defense and eventually gave themselves a shot to tie the game but the other players not named Charlie Moore wanted nothing to do with the ball. The Bears would waste the possession and UCI had possession up two points with one minute left in the game. The Bears would again lock down the Anteaters defensively and with Cal down two Cuonzo Martin called a timeout. Out of the break, Moore would actually miss a shot but Kam Rooks put the ball back in tying the ball game. The final possession of regulation for Irvine would yield nothing as the Cal defense was not allowing anything by them and the game went into overtime.
In the overtime period, Cal desperately needed to get production from another player besides Charlie Moore on the floor and that is exactly what they got. Singer found Rooks early who got fouled and went to the line for two. After hitting those, UCI’s Jaron Martin would answer back with his own pair of free throws.
In a testament to the level of defense Cal played, the Bears would only yield one more point for the rest of the overtime period, some three minutes and fifteen seconds. Domingo hit a huge three and who else but Charlie Moore would take the next Cal possession and get to the line for another two free throws. Cal officially took their first two basket lead and never looked back.
The Bears seemingly forced either a bad shot or a turnover for the rest of the overtime period and wouldn’t relinquish the lead. Moore would hit another series of free throws to put the game on ice and his night would end with a Cal freshman record 38 points, topping the all-time legend Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
The Bears did not quit and continued their home winning streak in exciting fashion, down three scoring options and utilizing a herculean freshman performance to put them over the top. Coach Martin would later reflect on the win as being “one of the best of his career” and Cal fans officially have been introduced to the freshman from Chicago, Charlie Moore. Final score: 75-65 BEARS!