The California Golden Bears used an early second-half run to pull away from Washington State, eventually cruising to an easy 76-55 win at Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Cal's win keeps its Pac-12 record unblemished, while WSU drops to 1-5 with another disappointing road trip.
The Cougars made it interesting in the first half. WSU used a zone to befuddle Cal and create a string of turnovers while building an 18-10 advantage. The Golden Bears would respond with a 14-0 run and it looked like they would finally take control.
That would be delayed, as the Cougs went on a 7-0 run of their own Cal would go into halftime leading by just one point at 34-33.
Que Johnson and D.J. Shelton were key to the first-half success. Johnson, who led all scorers with 18 points, set the tone early with a couple aggressive takes to the basket. Shelton would finish with one of the best performances of his career, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The rebounding was big for WSU, especially on the offensive end. That, combined with an abnormal amount of first-half free throws and Cal turnovers allowed Washington State to stay close.
But the second half was a different story. The Cougars took four minutes to score and Cal went on an 18-4 run to blow the game open. At one point, Golden Bears big man Richard Solomon had easy dunks on three-straight possessions as Cal figured out the WSU defense.
In three of WSU's last four games it has been the same story: The Cougs hang around for a period of time, but eventually give up a run. Against Colorado, the run meant a blown lead. Against Cal and Stanford, the run blew the game wide open.
This isn't out of the ordinary in college basketball. It's a akin to a mid-major taking on a good power conference team. Quite often the little guy can hang around as it plays with more intensity, and in some cases when the mid-major shoots well enough it can pull off an upset (like WSU almost did against Colorado when it hit 13 of 23 3s). But more often than not, the better team eventually raises its intensity level and takes over the game.
With WSU's level of talent, especially without DaVonte Lacy, they are a mid-major playing power conference teams. Except instead of a once-in-awhile occurrence, it is two times a week.