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California shows grit, toughness in win at Stanford

Jan 2, 2014, 11:53 PM EDT

bears AP

Without two key contributors in Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow, California was shorthanded entering its game at rival Stanford on Thursday night. But instead of worrying about what they were lacking the Golden Bears simply competed, and with three mainstays leading the way Mike Montgomery’s team picked up a much-needed 69-62 win.

Sophomore wing Tyrone Wallace, whose opportunities have gone up with Bird sidelined with an ankle injury, reached double figures for the fifth straight game with 20 points while also grabbing five rebounds. A 34.2% shooter from the field as a freshman, Wallace entered Thursday’s game shooting better than 46% from the field and averaging three more points per game (up to 10.6 from 7.4). Wallace has been an improved player for the Golden Bears, but even with that being the case Thursday’s result served as another reminder of how important the senior tandem of Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon is to Cal.

Cobbs scored 18 points and dished out five assists, but to summarize his performance with just those two numbers would be an injustice. The senior made multiple key plays down the stretch, either by hitting important shots or setting up his teammates, and his defensive effort against Stanford’s Chasson Randle (15 points on 6-for-16 shooting) proved to be key as well.

And in accounting for 14 points and 13 rebounds, Solomon tallied his fifth double-double of the season after posting just three all of last season. Cal needed him to become a more consistent player in the middle, and to this point in the season Solomon’s done just that.

Stanford outscored Cal 30-20 in the paint but Thursday’s defeat will represent a missed opportunity, as they failed to retain control of the game after going on a 7-1 run to take a 56-54 lead with 5:17 to go. But that wasn’t as much about what Stanford failed to do as it was California refusing to go away. And with their two seniors and an improved Wallace leading the way, the Golden Bears are more than capable of winning enough games to get back to the NCAA tournament.