The Cal Bears remained perfect at Haas Pavilion by defeating the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, 67-55, on Sunday night to move to 4-0 at home.
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The Cal Bears took the floor on Sunday night for their second game in three days, but their opponents, the Southeastern Louisiana Lions, were out for their third game in five days.
Jabari Bird was out for the Bears again, missing his fourth straight contest because of a back injury. Joining him on the bench was starting big man Kameron Rooks. The seven-footer suffered a knee injury during Friday’s win against the Wyoming Cowboys, and is expected to miss an indefinite amount of time.
With those injuries, Cal went to their fifth different starting in five games. Freshman Charlie Moore became the only player for Cal to start every game so far. He was joined in the lineup by Grant Mullins (third start), Roger Moute a Bidias (third), Ivan Rabb (second), and Kingsley Okoroh (third).
After missing the first two games because of a toe injury, Rabb has really started to settle back in and look like the Preseason All-American he is. He scored the first bucket of the game, going up and around multiple defenders to lay it in. Moore followed with a three-pointer and coast-to-coast layup after a steal to put the Bears up 7-0 a minute and a half into the game.
Cal got a big break very early in the game. The Lions’ sophomore guard Marlain Veal, their leading scorer (19.3) and assist man (4.5), picked up his third foul not even three minutes into the game. He was on the bench for a lot of the first half, returning with about eight minutes to play.
Without Rooks, Okoroh was back in the lineup and making a difference. He scored six points in the first eight minutes to match his season-high, and pulled down three rebounds.
But like many times early in the year, it was Moore stealing the show in the first 10 minutes. By the time the halfway point hit on the first half, Moore already had nine points and three steals. He crossed double-digits with nine minutes left to go in the half by draining another three.
Cal put together an extremely good first half, maybe their best first 20 minutes of the young season. Though the Lions’ press defense made the Bears’ lives a bit difficult, they still shot the ball very well. Cal hit at a 48.1 percent rate and shot 62.5 percent from beyond the arc. They also did a nice job limiting turnovers, which had been a big problem, and committed just six fouls. Moore led the way with 17 points at the break.
Their defense stymied the Lions, holding them to a 32 percent shooting clip while forcing eight turnovers. They limited second-chance points, holding Southeastern Louisiana to three offensive boards. After 20 minutes, Cal was ahead 40-22.
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But like with each previous game, Cal couldn’t continue to play that well. Rabb began the second half with three straight buckets for the Bears, extending the lead to 22, but the Lions answered with a nine-point run, cutting the lead down to 13. The Cal offense continued to stall with turnovers, allowing the Lions to cut it down to just nine points halfway through the second half.
Okoroh stopped the run with a put-back layup, and Mullins followed with his third triple of the night to get the advantage back to 14. The Lions kept it somewhat close, but were never able to get the lead back into single digits. They got within 10 with a minute to go, but it was too little, too late by that point. Cal closed out the game and secured a 67-55 win.
Moore was the leading scorer for the third time in five games, totaling 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting (4-of-6 from deep). He added four assists and finished with three steals.
Rabb collected another double-double, marking his third in three games this year. He finished the night with 17 points and 10 rebounds while adding two steals, two assists, and a block.
Okoroh just missed joining Rabb with a double-double, scoring a season-high 10 points and matching his season-high by grabbing nine rebounds. Mullins chipped in with 13 points.
After getting into the early foul trouble, Veal could never really get into a groove. He scored just two points on 1-of-5 shooting while turning the ball over four times. Veal fouled out with about six minutes left in the game. His teammate, junior forward Davon Hayes, led the team with 11 points while sophomore forward Moses Greenwood added 10 points. Both men grabbed six rebounds.
The Bears are at it again on Wednesday, when they will welcome Louisiana Tech to Haas Pavilion to defend their 23-game winning streak at home. The 4-1 Bears take on the 3-2 Bulldogs for the first meeting between the two teams.