No. 14 California beats Sam Houston State 89-63
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) California made it through the warmup act unscathed. Now the Golden Bears get to see how good they really are when they get their first true tests of the season.
Freshman forward Jaylen Brown had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyrone Wallace helped key a big first-half run that led No. 14 California to its fourth straight win to open the season, 89-63 over Sam Houston State on Monday night.
''We have a good team. I know that,'' coach Cuonzo Martin said. ''But you have to still win games and measure yourself against equal talent and see what happens. I'm excited about it.''
The Bears (4-0) get that chance later this week. They play San Diego State on Thursday night in the semifinals of the Las Vegas Invitational and then either West Virginia or Richmond on Friday. That should provide a better gauge of where they stand.
''We'll learn a lot,'' Wallace said. ''As you start to play better teams, games get closer. It's more challenging and maybe harder to score on the initial pass. You move the ball and share like we did tonight and we'll be fine.''
Jordan Mathews added 18 points and Wallace had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Bears (4-0), who have faced four lesser opponents to open the season.
Dakarai Henderson scored 13 points and Jamal Williams added 12 for the Bearkats (1-3), who made just 37 percent of their shots.
Sam Houston State has seven newcomers this season and the only returning starter, Paul Baxter, is sidelined by a foot injury.
''We're trying to figure ourselves out right now,'' coach Jason Hooten said. ''I think the best way to do that is throwing them into the fire a little bit.''
The Bearkats stayed close with the more talented Bears for the first 11 minutes. Then they were unable to find the basket, going scoreless for 6:41 during Cal's 15-0 run that put the game out of reach late in the first half.
Brown started it with a dunk that made it 25-20. Wallace then scored on a layup, threw a behind-the-back pass to Brown for a dunk, made another layup and hit two free throws. A jumper by Ivan Rabb made it 38-20 before Sam Houston State finally ended the run on a layup by Torry Butler.
''We did a good job of getting into the passing lane, getting steals and getting into transition,'' Brown said. ''We also rebounded the ball to get out on the break. That fueled us a lot in tonight's game.''
Sam Houston State: Jalin Barnes added 10 points. ... Sam Houston State's only win came against NAIA Saint Thomas.
California: Mathews hit all three of his 3-pointers after going 1 for 5 on Friday against East Carolina. ... Jabari Bird fired up the crowd when he threw himself a pass off the backboard for a dunk late in the game. ... Nick Kerr, the son of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, got a loud ovation when he entered the game in the closing minutes.
The Bears have held all four opponents under 40 percent shooting, and it was the defense that turned the tide in this game as well. The Bearkats missed all 12 shots from the field during their first-half drought, as well as the front end of a one-and-one by Butler. That allowed Cal to get out in transition and get the easy baskets that turned a close game into a blowout.
The Bearkats scored the first seven points of the game as they held Cal without a basket on four attempts. The Bears then erased that in 79 seconds on a drive by Brown and back-to-back 3-pointers from Mathews.
Sam Houston State: Against Stetson or Bethune Cookman in Las Vegas on Friday.
California: Against San Diego State in Las Vegas on Thursday.