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California beats Coppin State 83-64 in opener

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JANIE McCAULEY | November 9, 2013 02:15 AM EST | AP

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Tyrone Wallace had 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds, knocking down three of his team's nine 3-pointers to lead California past Coppin State 83-64 in the season opener for both schools Friday night.

Justin Cobbs added 16 points and six assists for the Golden Bears, while highly touted freshman Jabari Bird had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his much-anticipated collegiate debut.

Cal looked well balanced with a deep and talented backcourt as the Bears work to replace departed leading scorer and Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, who left school after his junior season for the NBA and is now with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Sterling Smith scored 16 points for a Coppin State team missing top player and preseason all-conference pick Michael Murray. The 6-foot-5 senior forward fractured a finger in his right, shooting hand.

Doctors initially thought Murray would return for the opener but instead have him sitting out the first two weeks of the season to allow full healing to the bone.

Ricky Kreklow scored all eight of his points in the opening 4 minutes, 15 seconds for Cal, picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12. Coach Mike Montgomery will make sure not to overwork Cobbs given Cal's deep and talented backcourt, as Cobbs had right foot surgery in August. Cal's dynamic point guard and leading returning scorer averaged 15.1 points and his 4.8 assists ranked fourth in the Pac-12.

Cobbs found Richard Solomon for a pretty dunk that put Cal ahead 57-37 with 13:08 remaining. But Coppin State made it interesting late, with Andre Armstrong's 3 cutting Cal's lead to 73-61 with 4:14 left before Bird and Cobbs answered with baskets on consecutive possessions.

It seems Cobbs will have help from sophomore Wallace and freshman Jordan Mathews, and Bird.

A top recruit, the 6-foot-6 Bird is a guard from nearby Richmond's Salesian High School and expected to make an immediate impact as the Bears look to return to the NCAA tournament.

While Montgomery had expressed concern about his depth in the post, Cal had six different players with at least four rebounds and held a 51-37 advantage on the boards. David Kravish had 11 rebounds and Solomon had 10 boards and 10 points.

Arnold Fripp added 11 points for Baltimore-based Coppin State, which plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and has eight newcomers this season.

Both teams came out shooting well, combining for six 3-pointers in the opening 6 ½ minutes.

After Zach Burnham's basket pulled the Eagles within 17-13 at the 11:40 mark of the first half, Cal responded with a 23-10 run that included seven straight points from Wallace. He scored the Bears' final nine points of the half for a 43-28 lead at the break.

Earlier Friday, Cal announced sophomore guard Kahlil Johnson had left the team to focus on his academics. He will remain enrolled at the university. His playing time likely would have been limited this season.

Montgomery, the ninth-winningest active Division I men's head coach, moved three victories from tying Oregon State's Slats Gill for third place on the conference wins list after passing Washington's Hec Edmundson last season.

The game served as a nightcap in a doubleheader following the No. 9 Cal women's team's 70-51 victory over Long Beach State.