BERKELEY, Calif. — California head coach Mike Montgomery isn’t going to make any apologies for the way his team has to grind out games these days.
With little scoring punch beyond the tandem of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, it’s the way the Golden Bears are going to have to do things.
Tyrone Wallace scored a season-high 16 points, Cobbs made six free throws in the final two minutes and California played solid defense in the second half to overcame a sloppy offensive performance and beat Washington State 67-54 on Saturday.
The Bears (10-6, 2-2 Pac-12) won despite committing 19 turnovers, giving up 21 offensive rebounds and being held without a basket over the final 4:59.
“Get used to it fellas, it ain’t changing,” Montgomery said of his team’s style. “We have to do what we have to do. We’re not going to go out there and all of a sudden turn into the ‘76 Knicks. It’s just not happening.”
Cal shot well when it could hold onto the ball but had trouble getting the ball inside and couldn’t run its offense consistently enough.
That allowed Washington State (9-7, 0-3) to stick close deep into the second half until the Bears went 11 of 12 at the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the win.
“We just told each other we gotta get serious if we want to make a run at the Pac-12, like we’re capable of doing,” said Crabbe, who had 14 points. “We have all the weapons that we need to be successful. We all have to get on the same page.”
Cobbs finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Bears, who won for just the fourth time in 10 games after opening the season 6-0.
It definitely wasn’t pretty, though Wallace managed to stand out after being pulled from the starting lineup for missing the morning shootaround.
Wallace, a freshman who had been shut out in his previous two games at Haas Pavilion, had seven points in the first half but did his most effective work down the stretch.
After Royce Woolridge’s 3-pointer pulled the Cougars within 52-49 with 5:50 remaining, Wallace grabbed a long offensive rebound and scored on a driving layup. He followed with a short jumper then blocked a Brock Motum layup attempt from behind before adding three free throws as part of a 9-1 run in the final minutes.
“We’re aware of how good a player he is,” Washington State head coach Ken Bone said of Wallace. “They’re more than just Cobbs and Crabbe. They showed that tonight with Wallace.”
California tied a team record with 11 blocked shots, with a career-high six from Richard Solomon.
The Bears needed every one to hold off a pesky Washington State team that shot just 33.3 percent for the game but was within 58-51 with 3 1 /2 minutes to play.
But the Cougars went cold following a putback by Mike Ladd and managed only four baskets over the final 12 minutes while losing its third straight following a five-game winning streak.
“We were sort of out of sync on offense,” said Motum, who had 16 points. “They have a lot of length inside. They blocked a few shots and maybe we got timid.”
Ladd had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Washington State, and Woolridge also scored 12.
Neither team played well during a sloppy, mistake-filled first half.
Cal went 9 of 12 from the floor but committed 10 turnovers and was consistently outworked in the paint and outhustled for loose balls. Crabbe, coming off a season-low nine points in the Bears 62-47 loss to Washington on Wednesday, got off to another slow start and had just four points before the break.
Washington State wasn’t much better, shooting only 35.7 percent and going 1 of 8 on 3s. Motum had 10 points in the first half, but he also had two turnovers.
Jeff Powers, making his first start of the season, had five for Cal, including a late 3-pointer, while Robert Thurman picked up a loose ball and scored with six seconds remaining to put the Bears up 29-27 at halftime.