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The Wrap: Cal beats Washington 69-59, the Rabbolution is upon us

With the potential 2017 number one pick visiting Berkeley Thursday night, it was the Bears future lottery pick that took over the evening.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

With another extremely entertaining night at Haas in the books, the Bears closed out a valuable home win and sent Cal fans home happy. The story of the night was the tale of two halves, one of which was a bit underwhelming and the other that saw Ivan Rabb dominate down low. However the Bears looked lost at times on the offensive side of the ball and we have yet to see this team put a complete game together when healthy. As a whole, the night ends with smiles from Berkeley after the Bears took care of business in game one of the home stand and push their win total to an even dozen.

First Half

There wasn’t too much excitement outside of a fan hitting a half court shot and landing himself a free trip to Hawaii (congrats Kyle!). The Bears were able to bottle up Washington and didn’t have to lean to heavily on their stars to create separation. Potential number one overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft, Markelle Fultz, was kept in check but did have one spectacular dunk before reaching the break.

Second Half

Cal set the tone for the second half of the game with Kingsley getting a huge block down low on the first Washington possession. The Bears would quickly start to build on their halftime advantage of six points, pushing their lead to ten before the Huskies made their way back.

There were two separate instances on the evening that felt like the Bears were going to separate from the Huskies and build an insurmountable lead. Each time those moments came to a crashing halt as David Crisp got hot beyond the arc. Crisp also was notably jawing, staring and going after Cal guard Don Coleman all evening which made for some fun entertainment.

With about fourteen minutes to play, Washington closed a 10-0 run to bring the score even. Charlie Moore entered the game despite some early foul trouble and brought the Bears to life on the offensive side of the ball. However, he would take on Markelle Fultz in isolation and end up committing a terrible foul (his fourth) that left him relegated to the bench once more. At a time where Cal was showing very little life offensively, this seemed like it could spell trouble for the Bears.

From this moment forward, Cal would ride Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird towards the finish line. Rabb forced Washington forward Matthew Atewe into committing several fouls on the low block and made a point of getting to the line often. This was a crucial element in the game as the Huskies rapidly reached the bonus and had to lighten up on the defensive side of the ball. It’s fair to say, Rabb took advantage of every bit of that extra space.

With under ten minutes to go, Cal would find its rhythm offensively. Jabari Bird hit a huge three from the corner to put the Bears up five and UW responded with a bucket of their own. In what ended up becoming a pivotal play in the game, Don Coleman was fouled as he elevated towards the basket for a layup and he fell hard to the floor. He looked initially stunned and then looked to be in a lot of discomfort grabbing his low back. Coleman walked gingerly off the floor and eventually into the locker room.

This left Washington coach Lorenzo Romar with a decision to make regarding who should stand in and take the free throws for Coleman. He selected Stephen Domingo who promptly came in and sank both free throws without hesitation. This helped Cal to a four point lead and started to shift the game in Cal’s favor.

On the next Cal possession Charlie Moore would run a nifty pick and roll with Rabb who finished at the other end to put the Bears up six. Rabb would then add one more bucket to his name around the 2:14 mark and the Bears wouldn’t let the score get closer than six the rest of the evening. Final score: Cal 69, Washington 59.

A few closing thoughts

Jabari Bird might have been the unsung hero for Cal throughout this game. The Huskies David Crisp hit four devastating three’s on the night, seemingly in pairs that kept the Bears from building a bigger lead. More often than not, Jabari was the answer. Even more impressive he started his night 0-3 from the arc and ended 4-7. The years of experience have tremendously benefited Jabari’s ability to have confidence in continuing to shoot the ball, even if he starts slow.

Ivan Rabb clearly looked the better of the two potential lottery picks at Haas tonight. Despite their different positions and a big mismatch defensively for Rabb down low, there was something incredibly impressive in Rabb’s second half. He finished with another gaudy line of 20 points and 14 boards, half of which gave Cal extra offensive possessions. Without his presence the Bears most likely take a loss at home tonight.

The post game reports regarding Don Coleman were relatively positive. He was nursing his lower back (as we expected) but coach Martin said he expects him to be ok.

We are pushing into the last game without students on campus which should provide an uptick in the atmosphere at Haas. The student section will help the arena become a more intimidating place to play and the noise level should increase significantly. Look out for a wildly entertaining next couple of months of Cal basketball.