BERKELEY (AP) – California earned its sixth-straight win to remain perfect the Pac-12 Conference with a 76-55 victory over Washington State in front of a season-high crowd of 9,348 at Haas Pavilion Saturday afternoon in Berkeley, Calif. The Golden Bears’ 5-0 conference start is their best since 2003, when they opened the league slate 7-0.
Senior Justin Cobbs led the Bears with 16 points, marking his 10th-straight game scoring in double-digits.
With the win, Mike Montgomery surpassed former Oregon State coach Slats Gill to take over sole possession as the third-winningest coach in Pac-12 history with 277 league wins. Montgomery also tied Lou Campanelli as the third-winningest coach in school history with 123 wins.
Senior Richard Solomon had eight of his 12 points after halftime to go with nine rebounds to help Cal rebound from a sluggish start to the game.
"We didn't come out with the same energy we've been coming out with," said point guard Justin Cobbs, who also contributed seven assists and five rebounds. "We weren't moving. We were playing on the perimeter, not driving at all.
The Bears (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12) had to weather an early 18-4 run by the Cougars, then pulled away in the second half to secure their sixth straight win.
Tired of settling for mid-range jumpers and shots beyond the arc, Montgomery's team decided to go straight at Washington State's pesky zone defense.
A better effort from their own defense was just as critical in keeping the Bears tied for first place in the Pac-12.
"We were not ready to play," Montgomery said. "There just wasn't any intensity. We were really back on our heels, not aggressive to the basket, the whole thing. We were just standing there."
Solomon, who added three blocked shots, fell one rebound shy of a seventh double-double this season but helped the Bears stay perfect in the Pac-12 with four dunks in the second half. Three of them came on consecutive possessions while the fourth put Cal up 63-46.
D.J. Shelton scored 17 points with 11 rebounds for Washington State, which played its fourth straight game without leading scorer DaVonte Lacy.
"We came out hard in the first half but could not really sustain it." Cougars coach Ken Bone said. "They came out and punched us in the mouth. That is hard to take and hard to see, but (Cal) is a team that is undefeated in league and very good on their home court."
Tyrone Wallace scored 13 points with four assists and four steals for the Bears, who outscored the Cougars 40-10 in the paint.
Without Lacy, who is out with a rib injury after missing two games earlier this season due to appendicitis, Washington State (8-10, 1-5) couldn't keep up with Cal despite a strong run in the first half.
The Cougars fell behind 6-0 before switching to a 1-1-3 zone that the Bears struggled adjusting to.
Shelton scored six points during the run and Que Johnson added five, while Royce Woolridge's layup put Washington State up 18-10.
Cal came back to lead 34-33 at the break then pulled away in the second half.
That allowed the Bears to keep pace with Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings. The two teams meet at Haas Pavilion on Feb. 1.
"We see the opportunity we have but we're going to take it one game at a time," Cobbs said. "If we come out and really defend, the offense will take care of itself."
Jordan Mathews and Jeff Powers made 3-pointers and Solomon had a dunk on three straight possessions to put the Bears up 52-37 with 11:35 remaining. After an intentional foul by the Cougars, David Kravish scored on a short jumper that pushed Cal's lead to 17.
Coming off a 32-point loss to Stanford on Wednesday, Washington State never got out of its offensive rut and remained winless at Haas Pavilion since 2008. The Cougars managed only a pair of baskets by Shelton through the first nine minutes of the second half, trailed by as much as 23, and shot just 34.0 percent overall.
"Our court-on-court defense for a long period of time was pretty good but our transition defense was very poor," Bone said. "(The Bears) are really good off the bounce and they were hard to keep in front of us."
Cal heads to Los Angeles this coming week to take on USC on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (PT). The game will be televised on ESPNU. The Cal/IMG Radio Network will have full coverage of the game on KGO 810 AM in the Bay Area or through TuneIn on CalBears.com. The pre-game show begins at 7:30 p.m. (PT).