Cal Bears: Rabb’s Big Game Leads Cal to Overtime Win

Jan 21, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears forward Ivan Rabb (1) celebrates with guard Jabari Bird (23) toward guard Sam Singer (2) after a basket against the Arizona State Sun Devils with an assist by Singer during the first half at Haas Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears forward Ivan Rabb (1) celebrates with guard Jabari Bird (23) toward guard Sam Singer (2) after a basket against the Arizona State Sun Devils with an assist by Singer during the first half at Haas Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cal Bears took on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Wednesday, and super sophomore Rabb turned in one of his best performances to lead the way.

Riding a modest two-game winning streak, the Cal Bears welcomed the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs to Haas Pavilion just days after beating another team from the Pelican State, Southeastern Louisiana.

Cal was short-handed again, as they have been for each of their games so far. Jabari Bird sat out his fifth straight game because of back spasms, and Kameron Rooks missed his second straight game because of a knee injury. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Rooks underwent arthroscopic surgery which will force him to miss four-to-six weeks.

For the first time all season, the Bears didn’t use a different starting lineup. They went with Charlie Moore, Grant Mullins, Roger Moute a Bidias, Ivan Rabb, and Kingsley Okoroh as their starting five for the second straight game.

Also for the second straight game, Rabb opened the scoring by laying one in from deep in the paint. Moore continued the impressive start to his freshman year with a pair of contested drives, finishing at the rim both times. Rabb established his presence in the paint early, scoring seven points in the first seven minutes.

Despite what looked like a clearly dominant start, Cal could not really separate themselves from the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech hung around, and trailed by only four halfway through the first 20 minutes. With six minutes left, they were within three.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Cal extended the lead up to nine, but the Bulldogs continued the pressure and went on a 7-0 run to make it a two-point game. Cal limped into the locker room with a 31-29 lead.

Rabb played a tremendous first half. He scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting while pulling down seven rebounds. Moore was also good, adding eight points on 4-of-9 shooting. The rest of the team was downright awful. The players around Rabb and Moore combined for seven points on 2-of-13 shooting.

The Bulldogs weren’t exactly lights out offensively in the first half. They shot 33.3 percent from the floor and made just one three pointer. But they made eight free throws, compared to five for the Bears, who didn’t make a three. That’s a six-point different right there.

Louisiana Tech opened the second half with a bucket to tie the game, and the teams traded empty possessions and turnovers for a while after that. Cal scored their first basket of the half after a four-minute, 26-second scoreless drought to break that tie. The jumper from Moute a Bidias was also their first basket outside the paint.

The bulldogs brought it back to a tie, 35-35, and Cal coach Cuonzo Martin was forced to take Rabb out after his third foul. On the next possession, Erik McCree drained a three to give Louisiana Tech their first lead of the contest.

The Bears answered again, with Rabb assisting on an Okoroh lay-in and making one at the rim of his own to put Cal back in front. Rabb hit Okoroh with another slick pass to allow Okoroh to slam one home and extend the lead to three.

Cal’s 8-0 ended with Bulldog free throws, and Rabb was forced to the bench again with his fourth foul with over seven minutes to play. Louisiana Tech continued to fight back, bringing it back to a one-point contest with five minutes to go, and taking the lead back with two McCree free throws 30 seconds later.

Moore put the Bears back ahead, draining a three from NBA range to put Cal back in the lead. It was Cal’s first triple of the night. The lead was short-lived, as Jacobi Boykins responded with his own long-range shot to make it 53-52 Louisiana Tech.

Moore wasn’t having it. He drained a three from the wing to put the Bears back in front with under two minutes to play. A pair of free throws brought it back to even with just over a minute to go.

More from Cal Bears

The Bears’ next possession looked broken, but Sam Singer saved an off-target pass to the top of the key and hit a mid-range jumper. McCree made another clutch shot, hitting his own jumper to tie it up. Singer tried to play hero, but his floater fell short, forcing overtime.

McCree started the overtime scoring, hitting another big shot from just inside the three-point line. After a Rabb free throw, Mullins made his presence felt. He dropped in his first three-pointer of the game to put the Bears up 61-59. Rabb hit two more from the line to make it a four-point game.

Cal missed three straight free throws before Moore made one, but it made no difference. Louisiana Tech couldn’t answer back with any sort of points, and Rabb’s pair of freebies made it 66-59 with 13.3 seconds to play. Moore added two more from the stripe for good measure with 0.9 seconds, and that was it. Cal escaped with a 68-59 overtime victory.

Rabb was the star of the game. He set a new career high by scoring 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting, and set a season high with 13 rebounds. He played the final three minutes of regulation and all of overtime with four fouls.

Okoroh just missed a double-double again, scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and grabbing a career-best 12 rebounds. He also matched his personal best with five blocks, reaching that total for the second time in five games. Moore also had a nice day, scoring 17 points.

While Rabb and Okoroh combined to shot 72.2 percent, the rest of the cast struggled badly. They shot only 28.9 percent, and 16.7 percent from long range. The entire team shot 57.9 percent from the line.

The defense still played well, holding Louisiana Tech to 27.3 percent shooting, and 23.5 from deep. McCree only shot 25 percent and made four field goals, but it seemed like every shot he did make was a big one. Derric Jean led the way for the Bulldogs with 13 points, followed closely by Boykins with 12.

Inconsistency was the name of the game again for the Bears. Their ball movement was extremely poor as the Bulldogs played tough defense, and they needed every bit of Rabb’s huge game to come away with the win.

Next: Chad Hansen, Five Others Among All-Pac-12 Mentions

The Bears extended their winning streak at Haas Pavilion to 24 games, the second-longest run at home in school history. That streak will be put on the line again on Saturday, when the Alcorn State Braves come to Berkeley. The Braves are 2-3 on the season, and winless in three games on the road. In two prior contests, the Bears are undefeated against Alcorn State.