The California men’s basketball team opened conference play in the best way possible, beating No. 21 Washington, 81-75, on Friday. Sophomore guard Jordan Mathews led the way for the Golden Bears, finishing with 31 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal.
Mathews shot 8-of-14 from the floor and hit five three-pointers.
“I got into a rhythm early,” Mathews said on Ferrall on the Bench. “My teammates did a great job of finding me – and when that’s happening, you always give yourself an opportunity as a shooter for things to go down for you.”
The Golden Bears shot 42.6 percent from the floor, 35.7 percent from three-point range and 70.6 percent from the foul line. They also forced 12 turnovers while committing just four.
It was a much-needed win for Cal (11-3), which had dropped its previous two games: one to No. 6 Wisconsin, 68-56, and another to CSU Bakersfield, 55-52. Mathews had just nine points against CSU, a team from the Western Athletic Conference that entered the contest 2-10.
Seeing Mathews go off for 31 points in his very next game was a welcome sight for Cal fans.
“I just had to come in with a different mentality,” Mathews said. “I sat down with coach (Cuonzo Martin). He said, ‘Your mentality and the way you’ve been playing isn’t up to par with what we need.’ He was very honest with me, and I think I needed to hear that. It paid of for me tonight.”
Mathews said he has really enjoyed playing for Martin, who is in his first year at Cal.
“I love it,” Mathews said. “His intensity, we feed off of it. He’s honest with us at all times. He loves us. He’s just about helping us grow as men, not just as basketball players. So playing for him has been a great pleasure, and I love playing for him.”
While Mathews stole the show against Washington, he got plenty of help from teammates David Kravish and Tyrone Wallace, who combined for 40 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Kravish had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Wallace finished with 19 and 8 – despite shooting just 4-of-20 from the floor.
“Kravish is capable of doing that every night,” Mathews said. “That’s what we expect from Dave. Tonight was a big step forward for Dave. We’re going to continue to feed him.”
Cal continues its Pac-12 slate against Washington State (6-7) on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
“We’re hyped,” Mathews said. “We’re going to celebrate tonight, shake it off in the morning and get ready for Washington State.”
After that, Cal has back-to-back road games against USC (8-5) on Jan. 7 and UCLA (8-6) on Jan. 11.
“Those are big games for us, but every game in the conference is a big game,” said Matthews, who is from the Bay Area. “So we got to go out there, handle our game plan and let the chips fall where they may.”