STANFORD (CBS/AP) — California coach Mike Montgomery wondered how his team would respond playing short-handed and under pressure on the road in its Pac-12 opener.
His players gave him a resounding answer.
Tyrone Wallace scored 20 points and Justin Cobbs finished with 18 points after hitting some big shots late as Cal beat Bay Area rival Stanford 69-62 on Thursday night.
“Pretty good stuff. Pretty pleasing,” Montgomery said. “I thought the kids held their poise.”
Richard Solomon added 14 points and 13 rebounds to power the Golden Bears (10-4, 1-0 Pac-12) inside after Stanford big men Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic fouled out in the final minutes.
Powell had 16 points and five rebounds, Chasson Randle scored 15 and Anthony Brown added 14 points as the Cardinal (9-4, 0-1) collapsed late.
It was Cal’s first victory at Maples Pavilion since March 6, 2010. Stanford swept last season’s series for the first time since 2008.
“I think it’s frustrating just the fact that it’s Cal and it’s the first Pac-12 home game,” Brown said.
In an otherwise statistically-balanced game, free throws played a major role. Cal hit 16 of 22 from the line, while Stanford made just 10 of 20.
Even still, Stanford rallied from eight down late. The Cardinal scored six points on one possession late in the second half to retake the lead and seemingly seize the momentum in front of its home fans, which were often drowned out by Cal supporters.
Brown made a 3-pointer, and officials called a flagrant foul on Jordan Matthews away from the ball. Powell made one of the free throws, and Randle added a layup to give the Cardinal a 55-54 lead with 5:44 remaining.
But after Stanford went ahead by two, Cobbs answered with a 3-point play over Josh Huestis to put the Bears back in front. Wallace made 3 of 4 free throws over the next two possessions, and Cobbs hit a pull-up jumper to extend Cal’s lead to 62-56.
“I thought he played like a senior. He made every big play. He made every big shot,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of Cobbs, who also had five assists and three rebounds.
Powell followed with a layup before Cobbs drove and dished to Solomon, who finished a dunk while getting fouled by Powell with 1:06 left. Powell fouled out on the play. Nastic, who had eight points and eight rebounds, had fouled out a few minutes earlier.
Without Stanford’s top inside players, Cal had all kinds of space inside — and the Bears took advantage of it. Cobbs stopped a final Stanford rally when he hit a jumper just inside the top of the arc to give Cal a 67-62 lead with 23.9 seconds left
“We got down, but we didn’t put our heads down,” Cobbs said. “We stayed together. For me and this team, that’s encouraging for us to see the way we persevered, the way we got through even when adversity hit.”
Neither team entered the game at full strength.
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright is out for the season with a shoulder injury, and Cal will be without junior guard Ricky Kreklow (broken hand) for at least a few more weeks and freshman guard Jabari Bird (sprained ankle) for the immediate future.
Even before the injuries, both schools had played inconsistently in non-conference games.
Stanford won at then-No. 10 Connecticut, but lost at home to BYU and dropped neutral-site games to Michigan and Pittsburgh. Cal won its first five games before losing four of its last eight, including to Syracuse, which is now ranked second.
The topsy-turvy performances carried over into the start of Pac-12 play.
After Stanford surged ahead by eight in the opening minutes, the Bears put together a 22-8 spurt propelled by defense and transition baskets to go ahead 26-20. Cal also overcame foul trouble to starters Matthews and David Kravish to stay in front, creating turnovers to head into the half with 37-31 lead and hold on at the finish.
“If we can keep playing that same way and get through conference,” Cobbs said, “I think we’re an NCAA (tournament) team.”
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