BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Cuonzo Martin wasn’t expecting much out of forward Christian Behrens when he first took over as California’s coach in the spring.
Expectations have certainly changed since then, both for Behrens and the Golden Bears.
Behrens scored a career-high 20 points, including eight late in the second half, Tyrone Wallace added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and California beat Eastern Washington 78-67 on Friday night to match its best start in 55 years.
”My teammates found me in the right position to finish plays,” Behrens said. ”Everybody did a good job of being unselfish today, everybody made the extra pass. I was the recipient of a couple of those and it ended up well for me.”
Sam Singer also had a career high with 15 points while Jordan Mathews added 13 for the Golden Bears (10-1). Cal has won seven straight games despite being without half of its starting backcourt.
The Bears overcame a sluggish start for the third consecutive game behind a pair of big runs. Cal closed the first half on a 16-2 burst, then outscored the Eagles 20-5 in less than four minutes during the second half to pull away for good.
Martin, the former Tennessee coach who replaced Mike Montgomery with the Bears, has Cal is off to its best start since the 1959-60 season, when they also opened 10-1.
”This all started when coach Martin got hired and we got to work,” Singer said. ”We knew we had a chance to be good. We got a big one coming up on Monday and we’d love to get to 11.”
Cal hosts fifth-ranked Wisconsin on Monday.
Tyler Harvey had a season-high 31 points and Venky Jois scored 23 for Eastern Washington (8-4).
Much like he has all season, Wallace provided the bulk of the scoring for Cal and got some much-needed support from Behrens.
The redshirt junior struggled defending Jois but countered it with a solid night offensively. He went 8-of-9 from the floor and scored eight points during the Bears’ big run in the second half.
”I didn’t think he did a very good job in the first half of being ready to catch the ball,” Martin said. ”He settled down. He’s a guy that continues to get better. He’s just playing with a lot of energy.”
Eastern Washington, already assured of its best non-conference record in 28 years, couldn’t keep up.
Jois helped the Eagles get out to an early lead. The junior forward from Australia had 11 points in the first 14 minutes, including a bank shot down low that put Eastern Washington up 24-21 with 6:34 left in the first half.
Eastern Washington: Assistant coach Shantay Legans was Cal’s starting point guard in 2001 when the Bears beat the Eagles 56-27. … Jois needs one point to become the 18th player in school history to reach 1,000 for his career.
California: The Bears continue to win despite being without speedy guard Jabari Bird. Bird, the team’s third-leading scorer, has missed five consecutive games with a foot injury and no timetable has been set for his return. … The 1959-60 team was coached by Pete Newell, who Cal named its court at Haas Pavilion after.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS FROM DEEP
Harvey went into the game leading the nation in made 3-pointers this season and is on the verge of becoming the school’s career leader as well. Harvey made six 3s against Cal, leaving him one shy of Marc Axton’s record of 184.
Eastern Washington: Hosts Lewis-Clark State on Monday.
California: Hosts No. 5 Wisconsin on Monday.