SEATTLE — California coach Wyking Jones calls his young team a work in progress, although they showed a significant growth spurt in the second half.
Darius McNeill scored 20 points and Justice Sueing added 17 as the two freshmen helped California pull away from a six-point halftime lead for an 81-59 victory over Seattle on Tuesday night.
“We’re young, but the guys are picking up what we’re telling them to do,” Jones said. “They’re giving us great effort. It’s just a learning process for these young guys. Now, we’ve got two road wins, we got an overtime win in the last game, so they’re maturing. They’re maturing at a fast rate right now. I’m very happy for our team.”
Cal (6-6) led 34-28 at the half, but capitalized on five turnovers to fuel a 13-0 run that opened a 53-37 lead with 10:58 remaining in the second half. Seattle missed 10 consecutive shots during a scoring drought of more than six minutes.
The Golden Bears added an 11-3 spurt to push the lead to 67-47 with 6:15 left. Junior guard Don Coleman added 16 points for California, which won its third straight.
“We had some poor shot selection in transition and poor decision-making that led to run outs the other way and eight became 18 fast,” said Seattle coach Jim Hayford. “We just don’t have the gumption and belief yet in one another to get back into one of those.”
Matej Kavas had 20 points and Richaud Gittens added 11 for Seattle (8-6), which had won its first seven home games.
Seattle shot just 33 percent, making 22 of 66 shots, and was just 7 of 32 (22 percent) from 3-point range as Cal switched back-and-forth from zone to man defense.
“We knew that they were a 3-point shooting team,” Jones said. “On average, they take 27 a game, they make 10. We knew if we could do a great job defending the three, we knew we’d give ourselves a chance to win. That’s what we did.”
In their previous game, the Redhawks were 16 of 28 beyond the arc in an 89-76 victory over Portland.
Seattle, held without a field goal until Morgan Means’ 3-pointer with 15:25 left in the first half, managed to stay close despite shooting 31 percent. The Redhawks were 9 of 29 from the field, including 4 of 16 from beyond the arc.
Cal missed its first six 3-point attempts until Coleman’s 3-pointer with 13 seconds left put the Golden Bears up six at the half.
The Bears offset their lack of outside shooting in the first half with 22 points in the paint.
Starting guard Jordan Hill, a graduate transfer from Wisconsin and Seattle’s second-leading scorer, played just five scoreless minutes in the first half while picking up three fouls.
“For whatever reason, I think our guys thought tonight was going to be a little easier than it was,” Hayford said. “In the first half, we really struggled offensively, but we were tough enough to stay in there. Then we kind of hit a point where our shots weren’t falling, and then we let our guard down and then the game got away from us.”
California: The young Golden Bears, who start two freshmen, are improving under first-year head coach Jones. Their victory over Seattle was the first time they have won three consecutive games this season. They have one more nonconference game before opening Pac-12 play at Stanford on Dec. 30.
Seattle: The Redhawks, who entered Tuesday night 7-0 at home, play 14 of their first 20 games at home. Seattle is 0-5 on the road, including a loss across town at Washington, and won its only neutral-site game.
“Humble pie doesn’t taste good, but it makes strong muscles,” Hayford said. “I’ve coached enough games that I know what to do with humble pie.”
California: The Golden Bears host Portland State on Thursday.
Seattle: The Redhawks will face Nicholls State on Saturday in the fourth game of a nine-game homestand.
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