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. Austin Rivers plays pick-up against LSU freshman Antonio Blakeney, Rutgers freshman Corey Sanders (VIDEO)

    May 25, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Getty Images

    Austin Rivers played against some exciting rising freshmen in Antonio Blakeney and Corey Sanders.

  2. Charlotte transfer down to four schools

    May 25, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    dorn

    Conference USA Freshman of the Year winner Torin Dorn is focusing on four schools.

  3. Auburn forward will transfer

    May 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    purchase

    Auburn is losing a reserve forward.

  4. Report: Five-star Class of 2016 guard Jamal Murray has timeline to decide future

    May 25, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Jamal Murray is one of the major pieces still in question for the 2015-16 college basketball season.

  5. 50 Shades of … Brey? (VIDEO)

    May 25, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    This is actually kind of creepy.

  6. Top 30 recruit cuts list to five

    May 25, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT

    2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas. 2014 Nike EYBL. Session #2. Dallas.

    Bridges is considering hometown schools as well as a pair of blue-bloods.

  7. The latest on Thon Maker’s recruitment

    May 25, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Will Maker ever make it to college?

  8. Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley throws out first pitch at Diamondbacks game (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 7:29 PM EDT

    Bobby Hurley Bobby Hurley

    Arizona State’s “Curtain of Distraction” made an appearance as well.

  9. Donovan family thanks Florida fan base in full-page ad

    May 24, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    150524_Donovan Getty Images

    The last two decades were a special time for the Donovan family, who thanked the supporters who helped make it all possible.

  10. Pitt lands graduate transfer big man from Richmond

    May 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    alonzo nelson-ododa Getty Images

    Pitt added a big man who can play right away next season.

  11. Class of 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson faces five-star guard Seventh Woods at UAA (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    2014 Under Armour Association Finals

    Two of the best in the 2016 class battle in the Under Armour Association.

  12. Academic issues expected to sideline St. John’s point guard for fall semester, maybe longer

    May 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150524_Jordan_Rysheed Getty Images

    Already thin at the point, the situation becomes even tougher for first-year head coach Chris Mullin if this turns out to be the case.

  13. Former Providence center planning visits

    May 23, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A Big 12 and a Big Ten program are among those due who have reached out to the 7-foot-2 Fairfield Prep (Connecticut) product.

  14. Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production

    May 23, 2015, 7:32 PM EDT

    Tad Boyle AP

    Colorado’s Tad Boyle doesn’t like the proposed shot clock change, and he made a good point about the physical nature of college basketball today.

  15. UC Davis, head coach Jim Les agree to contract extension through 2021

    May 23, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    Jim Les Jim Les

    Les led the Aggies to a school-record (Division I era) 25 wins and their first Big West regular season title last season.

  16. Four-star 2015 power forward to visit Cal, Texas and Washington

    May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Noah Dickerson had previously committed to Georgetown and Florida.

  17. Max Bielfeldt down to three

    May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Wolverine could remain in the Big Ten.

  18. Frank Kaminsky writes a farewell letter to Wisconsin fans

    May 23, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150523_Kaminsky Getty Images

    The Wisconsin big man averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his last two seasons.