Cal used a bruising inside game to battle Arizona State for a 67-59 victory at Haas Pavilion on Saturday night.
The win pushed Cal’s record to 15-5 overall, 6-4 in Pac-10 play, for a fifth-place tie with Stanford in the Pac-10 standings. Arizona State fell to 11-9 (4-7) and stayed in seventh place.
Freshman Amit Tamir led the Golden Bears in scoring with 13 points, closely followed by Joe Shipp’s 12 and Solomon Hughes’ 11. The latter made his second straight start after coming off the bench for four games and missing four games following a knee injury.
For ASU, forward Tommy Smith led the way with 15 points, followed by 13 from Shawn Redhage.
Cal needed a more productive effort from Hughes, who had just 2 points and 1 rebound two days earlier against Arizona, because Jamal Sampson was ineffective for the second straight game. The freshman center, bothered by an illness, came off the bench, picked up four fouls in just seven minutes and didn’t score. Hughes, meanwhile, shot 5-for-7 from the field, grabbed 4 rebounds and blocked 2 shots.
“I really thought Solomon came out here with aggression,” Cal head coach Ben Braun said. “I think he came out here with enthusiasm. He was still tired a little bit tonight. He’s getting his timing back.”
Braun added, “He was really personally hurt after Thursday night. I told him, ‘Hey, be patient, Solomon, it’s going to take some time. You’ve got to take little steps.’ This was a major step on his way back.”
The 6-foot-11 Hughes abused ASU center Chad Prewitt in the low post, scoring on the 6-foot-9 senior and helping to shut him down. Prewitt had averaged 20.7 points in his last 11 games, but the man ASU coach Rob Evans calls “the best post man in this league” managed just nine points against Hughes and Sampson.
Saturday was a tight, physical game that featured plenty of good defense. The Bears made a concerted effort to get the ball inside – Cal scored 28 points in the paint – and, in the process, get to the foul line. ASU, conversely, took and missed plenty of perimeter shots, especially in the first half, and did not get to the line much. Cal shot 18-for-22 from the charity stripe to just 8-for-13 for ASU.
The Sun Devils also shot just 39 percent from the field to Cal’s 40 percent. ASU did out-rebound Cal, 42-27, grabbing a big edge (20-5) in offensive boards.
“We knew going into this game it was going to be probably as physical a game as we’re going to play to this point,” Braun said. “That’s a trademark from Arizona State. I told our guys. We prepared them this week in practice. ‘We’re going to get hit. There’s going to grab loose balls. They’re going to grab offensive rebounds. That’s their game. That’s their identity.’ I thought our guys through that hung in there.”
The most unusual stats of the night concerned the top rebounders for each team, both guards. Brian Wethers pulled down eight boards for Cal, while, amazingly, 6-foot-2 Curtis Millage grabbed 11 for ASU.
“Brian is a separator,” Braun said. “I told him, ‘We’re going to need more sometimes.’ He told me he was disappointed. He wanted to get 10-plus.”