PULLMAN – Washington State’s game plan against California was to stick with what worked in their previous win over the Bears: Dominate inside and contain Jordan Wallace.
The Cougars struggled to accomplish the first goal. The second never had a chance.
Wallace had a monster first half to pace the Golden Bears in a 76-67 win that snapped a six-game losing streak for Cal.
Cal led 39-37 at halftime because Wallace scored 21 of his 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the first half.
“Great players are going to do that. We have to find a way to slow him down and stop him,” WSU guard DaVonte Lacy said. “He had a slower second half, but then he had his weapons back with (David) Kravish and (Jordan) Mathews and they stepped up and made big plays.”
He and fellow guard Jabari Bird had 15 of Cal’s 40 rebounds and WSU managed just 32 boards. Bird did not play in WSU’s first game against Cal.
The Cougars have lost four consecutive games following their impressive 3-1 start to conference play. Lacy scored 24 points for WSU (9-11, 3-5 Pac-12), including 13 in the second half to spearhead a comeback.
But the Cougars shot just 33.3 percent from the field, not nearly enough to keep up as Cal made 28 of its 55 shot attempts (50.9 percent).
The Golden Bears were hampered by foul trouble throughout the game. Less than a minute came off the clock before Mathews – who averages 15 points per game – was issued two fouls, including a technical for pushing WSU’s Ny Redding in retaliation for Redding stealing the ball a couple of seconds after the whistle.
Cal forward Kravish was also kept off the court because of foul trouble for much of the game – he picked up his fourth less than 5 minutes into the second half and fouled out with 9:53 left in the game – but WSU’s posts didn’t take advantage.
WSU’s Jordan Railey had a career game in the win over the Golden Bears in Berkeley, but he had trouble finishing near the basket on Thursday, scoring six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
“When Kravish has to guard Jordan, the guy’s got 30 pounds on him and 4 inches,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said. “That ball should have been in there all night. It went in there quite a bit. We just didn’t get a lot done with it.”
Josh Hawkinson had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Cougars but shot just 33 percent and missed all three 3-point attempts. He was a 44-percent shooter from behind the arc in WSU’s nonconference games but has missed all 15 3-point attempts against Pac-12 teams.
“(Hawkinson) had an opportunity for great looks tonight because their bigs couldn’t come out and play and those shots he’s hitting early on, he’s not hitting now,” Kent said. “But we’re going to hang in there with him.”
Wallace was a dominant scorer and rebounder for Cal in its nonconference games but averaged just 13.4 points on 30-percent shooting entering the game.
WSU won the first matchup between the schools (69-66) for the team’s first Pac-12 road win in nearly two years. That win propelled it to a three-game winning streak but subsequent losses to defensive-minded Oregon State and Utah put WSU’s offense in a funk.
The Cougars scored consistently at the free-throw line, making 23 of 26 shots.
Whenever Wallace went quiet, freshman Brandon Chauca stepped up for the Golden Bears. After arriving at WSU last spring, Kent recruited Chauca, but the Cougars finished No. 2 for the 5-foot-9 guard from Virginia.
Chauca finished with a career-best 10 points and was Cal’s most reliable outside shooting threat, making two of his team’s six 3-pointers.
But Mathews, who sat for most of the first half after his early foul, was crucial for Cal down the stretch, scoring all nine of his points in the final 3:13.
His 3-pointer with 44.2 seconds left beat the shot-clock buzzer and gave the Golden Bears a six-point lead.
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