Skip to content

Front court contributions help California oust 5-seed UNLV

Mar 21, 2013, 10:40 PM EDT

California v UNLV Getty Images

UNLV entered Thursday’s East Region game against 12-seed California with more NBA-caliber talent in the front court, led by freshman Anthony Bennett, sophomore Khem Birch and junior Mike Moser.

But they were outplayed by Cal’s Robert Thurman and Richard Solomon, who combined for 23 points and ten rebounds to help lead the Golden Bears to the 64-61 victory in an East Region matchup. As a team Cal (21-11) outscored UNLV 34-18 in the paint, and their early second half move to a zone defense seemed to confuse the Runnin’ Rebels.

Bennett and Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points apiece to lead UNLV (25-10), but Dave Rice’s team shot just 32.2% from the field and far too often failed to get the ball into the high post against Cal’s defense. Shooting 6-of-20 from beyond the arc was something UNLV could have survived had they shot better than 33.3% (13-of-39) from two.

Allen Crabbe (19 points, nine rebounds) and Justin Cobbs (13 points, six assists) are going to lead the way for the Golden Bears offensively, and that’s to be expected at this stage in the season. But Cal will also need performances from supporting cast members like the ones supplied by Solomon and Thurman on Thursday if they’re to remain in the NCAA tournament.

Thurman’s 12 points (all on dunks) are the most he’s scored in a game since posting 14 points in a win over UCSB back in mid-December. But while that’s evidence of his improved play it’s also a major indictment of UNLV’s interior defense.

Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Khem Birch played just 15 minutes, and his absence played a role in UNLV’s struggles with interior defense. With the forms of resistance essentially being Bennett and Moser, Thurman was able to find openings at the rim for multiple dunks.

Next up for California will be either Syracuse or Montana, and while much was made of the Golden Bears’ supposed “home-court” advantage with their Berkeley campus being about 50 miles away that wasn’t the deciding factor.

The performances of Solomon and Thurman are what got the job done. And if those two can duplicate their performances (or come reasonably close to doing so) on Saturday, the Golden Bears can advance to the Sweet 16.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Latest Posts
  1. Five-star Californian to visit six schools before making a decision

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:25 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Four Pac-12 schools remain in the running for the services of the former Arizona commit.

  2. Combo guard becomes Providence’s third 2015 commitment

    Aug 28, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT

    Ed Cooley AP

    Drew Edwards’ relationship with Providence head coach Ed Cooley was one reason why he chose PC.

  3. Top 100 Ohio native focused on five schools

    Aug 28, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Esa Ahmad’s list includes Ohio State and two other Big Ten programs.

  4. Five-star 2015 center trims list to five

    Aug 28, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Diamond Stone has cut his list to five schools, but just one has also offered friend Malik Newman.

  5. Montana State freshman won’t enroll this semester

    Aug 28, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT

    Eric Evans/Oregon Athletics Eric Evans/Oregon Athletics

    6-foot-10 forward/center Kavell Bigby-Williams would have given the Bobcats some additional size in the paint.

  6. Dismissed Maryland center finds a new school

    Aug 28, 2014, 4:49 PM EDT

    Bruce Pearl AP

    Trayvon Reed, who was dismissed from the Maryland program following his arrest on multiple charges earlier this summer, will enroll at Auburn in December.

  7. Former coach in King James AAU program sentenced to 15 years for Ponzi scheme

    Aug 28, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT

    Glen Galemmo coached a talented group, including Duke-bound Luke Kennard (AP) Glen Galemmo coached a talented group, including Duke-bound Luke Kennard (AP)

    There are already five players on the team Galemmo coached that have committed to high major programs.

  8. American extends head coach Mike Brennan’s contract

    Aug 28, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    He deserved it after the season his Eagle team had.

  9. Domestic dispute led Anthony Johnson to withdraw from Charleston search

    Aug 28, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    There’s now a reason why Charleston couldn’t hire their most famous alum.

  10. DePaul’s Purnell loses fifth recruit that signed letter of intent

    Aug 28, 2014, 12:02 PM EDT

    Oliver Purnell AP

    He’s only been at DePaul for four years.

  11. Kansas State lands sleeper, their second commitment in 2015 class

    Aug 28, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Bruce Weber AP

    The Wildcats pulled a player off of a loaded AAU team’s bench.

  12. Five-star 2015 power forward trims list to three

    Aug 27, 2014, 11:04 PM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    One of the three remaining schools for Henry Ellenson added his older brother to the program in the spring.

  13. 2017 point guard verbally commits to Arizona State

    Aug 27, 2014, 10:36 PM EDT

    sendek AP

    Markus Howard decides to remain in the “Valley of the Sun” for college.

  14. Atlantic 10 releases schedule, Dayton to visit VCU on February 28

    Aug 27, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBC Sports Network will broadcast 33 Atlantic 10 games.

  15. ACC unveils schedule, defending champion Virginia gets Duke, UNC once apiece

    Aug 27, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT

    Tony Bennett AP

    While there are still some non-conference schedules to complete, the ACC conference schedule is loaded with quality matchups.

  16. Foot injury to sideline San Diego State freshman 3-4 months

    Aug 27, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT

    Steve Fisher AP

    Zylan Cheatham joins fellow freshman Malik Pope on the sidelines, with the latter still working to rehab a leg he broke twice while in high school.

  17. College of Charleston coaching search takes another turn

    Aug 27, 2014, 5:15 PM EDT

    Mike Young AP

    With their two finalists having removed their names from consideration, the College of Charleston is back to square one in its search for a new head coach.