LAS VEGAS — Junior guard TJ Bamba scored 17 points and senior forward DJ Rodman had 10 points and 11 rebounds as fifth-seeded Washington State extended its winning streak to seven with a 69-52 victory Wednesday against 12th-seeded California in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” Washington State head coach Kyle Smith said. “(California’s) a very physical team. They got a lot of length and athleticism there. We did a good job defensively, took care of the ball. We didn’t shoot a great first half but we were able to tighten the game up just a smidge.”
Washington State next will play fourth-seeded Oregon at 2:30 p.m. today in the quarterfinal round at the same site. It’s the second straight season the Cougars beat the Bears in the first round of the conference tournament.
Before this one, senior California guard Joel Brown pointed out the 3-point shooting of Washington State (17-15) as a key focal point for the Golden Bears (3-19) to stop on the defensive end of the court.
Washington State gained some separation midway through the first half after going on a 13-2 run, with five points from Rodman, for a 27-13 lead. Junior guard Jabe Mullins added 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions and the Cougars led 35-21 at halftime despite shooting 39% from the floor. Conversely, Cal was 0-for-5 on 3s and 10-for-27 (37%) overall from the field in trailing 35-21 at halftime.
“Really the only thing (California) did that bothered us was they came up with some points off turnovers and some second-chance (points),” Washington State assistant coach Jim Shaw said. “But their half-court offense had a really, really hard time.”
California was able to take something away from Washington State in the first half: one of junior forward Andrej Jakimovski’s front teeth.
Despite the physicality of the game, highlighted by the play where Jakimovski lost his tooth, the Cougars only attempted 13 free throws the whole contest.
“I thought he got poked pretty good,” Shaw said.
Aside from the lack of foul calls, the second half proceeded with barely any hitch for the Cougars.
Mullins scored five straight points during an 8-0 run that put Washington State ahead 53-32 with 8:48 left. Cal scored 10 unanswered points to cut it to 53-42 before Jakimovski ended Washington State’s four-minute field-goal drought with a 3. The Cougars led by as least 12 points the rest of the way.
Mullins recorded 11 points, and Jakimovski and sophomore forward Mouhamed Gueye each had 10 points, respectively.
Monty Bowser, averaging just 3.4 points per game, scored a career-high 19 points for California (3-29). Lars Thiemann added 10 points.
Cal ended the season on a 16-game losing streak, with its last victory coming Jan. 6 against Stanford.