BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Charles Minlend wasn’t sure what to expect from his San Francisco teammates after the Dons flew back from Ireland following their first loss of the season over the weekend.
Two runs in the first half puncuated by a pair of Minlend dunks, followed by an equally big run in the second half, put any concerns to rest.
Minlend had 17 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, Jordan Ratinho made consecutive 3-pointers as part of a big run early in the second half and San Francisco pulled away and beat California 79-60 on Wednesday night.
“It’s easy to keep pushing when you’re winning games,” Minlend said. “I was kind of curious to see how we were going to come out to start the game and also how our energy was going to be before the game. We were coming back to play against a Pac-12 team. I was really happy about how we came out and how we played.”
The Dons won their first seven games before falling to No. 17 Buffalo in the championship game of the Belfast Classic in Northern Ireland on Saturday.
San Francisco didn’t have much time to rest following the 10-hour flight home but regrouped well enough to beat California for the first time since 1997.
“It was easier coming back than going out,” Dons coach Kyle Smith said. “I don’t think I ever adjusted so I didn’t know how our guys were.”
Ratinho finished with 12 points and Jimbo Lull scored 14 for San Francisco.
Frankie Ferrari added nine points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Dons (8-1) bounced back from their only loss of the season to win going away in the first meeting between the two Northern California teams in more than a decade.
San Francisco led by 10 at halftime then broke the game open with a 22-5 run coming out of the break.
Ratinho got the Dons rolling after halftime with his shooting beyond the arc. Ferrari and Remu Raitanen also made 3s when San Francisco pushed its lead to 56-32.
“It was a great team effort,” Minlend said. “Especially coming off a road trip out of the country. We were really aggressive and that helped us on both ends of the court.”
California (2-5) couldn’t keep up and lost its fourth in five games.
Andre Kelly had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for the Golden Bears.
“We got beat by a veteran team that wanted it more than we did tonight,” Cal coach Wyking Jones said. “They just had more fight. We’re young, they’re an experienced team, and it looked like it tonight.”
Minlend has scored in double digits in all but one game this season and got the Dons going early with a pair of dunks in the first half. He also made a 3-pointer when San Francisco went on another big run to extend its lead to 34-24 at the half.
San Francisco: The Dons were a little sluggish to start in their first game since returning from the Belfast Classic in Ireland but they shrugged it off and won in impressive fashion while giving Smith his 50th win as San Francisco’s coach. Lull, the team’s 7-foot center, came on strong in the second half after being held to four points or fewer in three of his four previous games. Minlend’s work on the boards was equally key and helped the Dons to a 40-28 advantage in that department.
California: The Bears continue to struggle through their nonconference schedule. They had as many turnovers (nine) as they did made shots in the first half, were dominated on the boards and threw away their last possession before halftime. It didn’t get much better after that. Cal’s depth also took a hit when Juhwan Harris-Dyson sat out the second half with an injury.
By playing Pac-12 schools like Cal and Stanford (on Dec. 22) the Dons are hoping to garner a little national recognition. Smith, San Francisco’s third-year coach who was signed to an extension in the offseason, wants his players to embrace the hype. “I think it’s a little premature to talk about that but our guys are into it so I might as well,” Smith said. “This senior group is pretty good. Hopefully (the West Coast Conference) is where it’s at and we’ll get our recognition.”
San Francisco: The Dons return to War Memorial to start a four-game homestand beginning Thursday against Eastern Washington.
California: Hosts San Diego State on Saturday. The Bears have lost four straight and five of six to the Aztecs since 2005.
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