NCAA

Rabb, Bird help push Cal past Washington State

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AP

Rabb, Bird help push Cal past Washington State

BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Even as Jabari Bird was mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, California coach Cuonzo Martin encouraged him to keep shooting.

Bird followed the advice and came through with a pivotal 3-pointer to keep the Golden Bears in the thick of things in the Pac-12.

Bird made a key 3-pointer in the final minute, Charlie Moore made two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining and California hung on to beat Washington State 58-54 on Saturday.

"He has to keep shooting because the shots were there," Martin said of Bird, who went 0-for-6 before his clutch shot from beyond the arc. "I don't know if he was necessarily pressing. The shots didn't fall."

Bird made the only one that mattered with 52.9 seconds remaining, although the Golden Bears (13-5, 4-2 Pac-12) still had to sweat out the ending.

The game was delayed for several moments with 18.2 seconds left as officials reviewed video following a missed jumper by Washington State's Malachi Flynn. California was initially credited with the rebound but the call was later changed to give the Cougars possession.

Flynn was then called for a charge while driving to the basket. Moore was fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass and made both free throws to seal the win for the Bears.

"We made plays defensively," said California's Ivan Rabb after scoring 14 points with 12 rebounds. "We did a good job of exploiting matchups on the other end. A win is a win."

Rabb recorded his ninth double-double this season despite an off-night shooting. Rabb made just 4 of 11 shots and missed three free throws over the final 3 1/2 minutes.

Flynn scored 20 points while Josh Hawkinson had seven with 12 rebounds for the Cougars (9-8, 2-3), who have dropped three straight following a season-high four-game winning streak.

"Getting in foul trouble hurt us because I thought they had a hard time guarding us in the first half so we could spread the floor," Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.

Robert Franks made three 3-pointers and Flynn had 10 points to help Washington State to an early 12-point lead before the Cougars went cold, missing their three final shots with two turnovers over the final 3:46.

Rabb, California's leading scorer who had double-doubles in four of his first five conference games this season, didn't make his first basket until banking in a two-footer to jumpstart a 7-0 run that pulled the Bears within 29-28 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE:
Washington State: The Cougars led for much of the game but went cold offensively at the end of each half. Hawkinson remains four double-doubles shy of the Cougars career record of 53 held by Steve Puidokas (1974-77). Hawkinson's 49 double-doubles leads all active Division I players.

California: Yet another game the Bears could have and should have won comfortably. Instead they couldn't get much going offensively outside of Rabb and they couldn't find an answer for Flynn. California did get some big minutes off the bench from Stephen Domingo but Martin's team has to find a complementary scorer to help ease the pressure off Rabb. Bird had four points to go over 1,000 for his career.

BEARS GO ZONE:
Martin rarely takes his teams out of the man-to-man defenses that the Bears have been utilizing most of the season but California's coach switched up and went to a zone at times against Washington State to disrupt the perimeter shooting after the Cougars made five 3-pointers in the first half. "We never know when he's going to go to it but the past couple of games he's been switching defenses a lot to keep the other team off balance," guard Sam Singer said. "It helped us tonight, especially when they (went) small)."

COUGAR SPLASH BROTHER:
A day after having his high school jersey retired in Southern California, Klay Thompson of the NBA's Golden State Warriors - who played three seasons with the Cougars from 2008-2010 - attended the game and sat courtside wearing a WSU shirt.

UP NEXT:
Washington State: The Huskies return to Pullman to host Utah on Wednesday.

California: Goes back on the road and will play at No. 13 Oregon on Thursday.

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

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AP

Pac-12 to experiment with ways to shorten football games

LOS ANGELES -- The Pac-12 will shorten halftime and reduce the number of commercial breaks during its non-conference schedule this season as part of a trial program to reduce the length of its football games.

Halftime will be 15 minutes long, cut down from the usual 20-minute break. The number of commercial breaks will be reduced and they will be shorter in length, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said Wednesday.

Scott announced the initiative as the Pac-12 kicked off its media days in Hollywood. The experiment is intended to shorten ballooning game times in an era of up-tempo offenses running more plays and the increased scoring that comes with it.

"Just because metrics show robust ratings and attendance doesn't mean we shouldn't be experimenting and piloting with formats that will keep the sport attractive," Scott said. "It's incumbent on us to look at the presentation of the sport and make sure the pace of play is moving as much as possible and without changing the fundamentals of the game."

Scott did not completely dismiss potential rule changes in the future to address the length of games, saying that the upcoming experiment was part of a larger, more comprehensive review.

Scott noted that Pac-12 games have averaged nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes, more than 30 minutes longer than NFL games. Some of that discrepancy can be attributed to stopping the clock after first downs in college football, a rule not used in the NFL.

The halftime reduction could be a significant incentive to keep television viewers tuned in. Scott said up to 30 percent of the audience is lost during that break.

The changes could also have a positive effect on stadium attendance since Pac-12 fans have complained about the increase in late starts under the conference's most recent television deal. Fans might be more likely to watch a game in-person on a Thursday or Saturday night if they have a chance to get home before midnight.

For Arizona and Arizona State, which hold their early-season home games after dark to avoid the desert heat, it could mean their fans spend less time in triple-digit temperatures.

Pac-12 coaches consulted about the change did not believe it would hinder their ability to make adjustments at halftime, Scott said.

"I was delighted to hear our coaches feel like 20 minutes is more than they need from a student-athlete health and rest and X's and O's perspective," Scott said.

Scott also announced the league's plans to operate a centralized replay center, joining other conferences in consolidating its video review facilities.

The Pac-12 title game will stay at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, through 2019, Scott said. The league also has the option to hold the 2020 game in Santa Clara.

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

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AP

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”