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January 28, 2011

Cal crushes Oregon State by 28

BERKELEY -- Turns out that some home cooking was just what the doctor ordered for the Cal basketball team, as in their first of four straight home games following last weekend's road trip to Los Angeles, the Bears trounced visiting Oregon State to the tune of 85-57, setting a season-high for margin of victory in the 28-point romp.

"I'll tell you exactly what I told the guys, I told them a couple things," said fuming Beavers head coach Craig Robinson. "One, this was the first time that I saw us play, in the three years I've been here, that it looked like we just gave up. Before I can blame them, I have to blame myself for that, so I'm going to take the blame for this game. My team should never come out and lay an egg like the way we did."

A much more placid Cal head coach Mike Montgomery gave an honest assessment of what he deemed not the team's best overall performance, but certainly one to be lauded, thanks to the game-long employment of a big 2-3 zone on the part of the Bears (11-9, 4-4 in the Pac-10).

"Nah. Oregon State struggled a little bit," Montgomery said. "I did think our week of preparation was good for what we felt they wanted to do, and I don't think their 1-3-1 zone is what it's been in the past. I think that one of the things that happened, is in order for them to be effective offensively, particularly against the zone, they have to go small, and when they go small, the 1-3-1 is not as good because it's not as big and it makes it a little easier to pass through."

And pass, Cal did. Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez finished with his first career double-double, netting 16 points and 11 assists -- a personal best -- and sophomore point guard Brandon Smith chipped in seven assists, to boot.

"I think that Brandon not getting bothered by the first sight of the zone, he got it to Jorge and Jorge was able to penetrate and with 11 assists, get the ball to whomever he wanted down low." Montgomery said. "We had pretty good luck at doing that, knowing that the 1-3-1 was not anywhere near what it could have been."

The Bears scored 42 points in the paint to the Beavers' 32, and they got going early.

Though neither team scored for the first 1:24 of the game, once the first bucket fell, Cal started scoring like it was going out of style. Junior power forward Harper Kamp netted 10 points in the first half on 3-of-4 shooting and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line, while senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison notched six points and four boards before the break.

"They were forced to go man, because I think we were scoring pretty easily against the two zones that they had, and they weren't able to change defenses up as much," said Montgomery of his team's quick star. "I think when they went man, we struggled a little bit early with it, percentage-wise. I don't know that they had the chance or the opportunity or the time, or if they spent the time to even run a scout in terms of 'They're going to do this and this and this,' because (man) is not what they do primarily. We really got some mileage against the man and were able to get it where we wanted it."

The Bears played up-tempo and carved up Oregon State's vaunted 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone defenses, maintaining a lead of 10 or more points for 8:13 of the first half.

"When we get good energy and get up on people, we want to maintain that and be consistent with that," said Kamp, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "Good teams are going to try and make a run if you let them hang around, so you've got to stay on top of them."

True freshman wing Allen Crabbe was all over the floor, netting nine points on 4-of-7 shooting and 1-of-2 from three-point range while also tallying five boards and two assists in the first stanza en route to a 12-point, seven-rebound night.

Crabbe was one of four Cal players in double-digits on Thursday night, along with Kamp, Sanders-Frison (15 points and nine rebounds) and Gutierrez.

"I'm just happy that I found a way to find my teammates," said the always-understated Gutierrez. "We know it's always hard to play against Oregon State, and we knew we had to find the right people in the right moments, and we did."

Gutierrez's 11-assist night made him the first Bear to reach double figures in helpers since Jerome Randle turned the feat with 10 against Arizona State on Jan. 4, 2009. Smith's seven assists were more than any Beaver.

"I think that Jorge, Brandon and Allen did a great job of moving the ball and penetrating the seams like Coach always emphasizes and always wants us to do," Kamp said. "I think for some reason this group was able to do it effectively tonight. Maybe it's the fact that they're not quite as good in the 1-3-1 as they have been in the past. They played a little more 2-3 than the 1-3-1. That hasn't been as strong for them lately. They went with the 2-3 and our guards did a great job of finding the bigs down low and finding the seams outside."

Gutierrez's distributory prowess on Thursday night, combined with his defensive tenacity, allowed the Bears to run an effective fast break for the first time, really, in the whole 2010-11 campaign.

"It's something that we haven't been as effective with the entire year," Kamp said. "We've kind of struggled to get buckets and get out to get easy ones. Jorge especially did a good job tonight getting out on the break and attacking them and making them run back. We just looked for the open man and looked for the easy play instead of trying to make it hard."

Both Crabbe and Gutierrez had two steals apiece, while Solomon, Smith and Kamp chipped in one apiece. Cal scored eight points off of the break and 21 off of turnovers.

"Jorge, he's important," Montgomery said. "For scoring purposes, he's got to be involved. Allen has certainly been carrying his load and the inside guys. We don't look at Brandon as a scorer. Brandon's got to distribute and run the club, so to have an extra guy doing that makes us that much more effective. We moved the ball pretty well and Jorge was able to get penetration, and that helped him, I think."


For the third straight game, the Bears played primarily zone defense, settling into the 2-3 for much of the game and neutralizing Jared Cunningham, Calvin Haynes and Lathen Wallace. The only player to really break through for Oregon State (8-11, 3-5) was Devon Collier, who shot 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 from the line for 14 points, just behind Cunningham's game-high 15.

"There are a couple of things here and there that were good and Devon was certainly the brightest bulb in that," Robinson said. "A couple of the shots he missed I thought he might have gotten fouled and they didn't call it. He just kept fighting away and never complained. I was very pleased with it, and to have five offensive boards in a game like that is toughness. That's toughness. And (the best stat) is that he didn't have one turnover, didn't have one turnover in the game and that is a bright spot. We have got to have way more bright spots than just Devon."

Cunningham -- who had been the Beavers' go-to man this season -- shot just 2-of-5 from the field, went 0-for-3 from three-point land and got 11 of his 15 points off of free throws.

"Defensively, we did a pretty good job of getting to shooters," Montgomery said. "We felt that the thing they did was that they were able to move the ball and get four out and they'd find shooters. Nelson and Cunningham shoot the ball pretty deep. By and large we did a good job with that."

Despite hard, physical play down low by both Kamp and Sanders-Frison, more than 10 minutes into the game, Cal had just one team foul, and at the break, had only been whistled four times. Thanks to smart play in the post and on defense, the Bears only allowed the Beavers six free throws in the first stanza -- of which they made three -- and put Oregon State big men Joe Burton and Angus Brandt into early foul trouble.

"Probably getting Brandt and Burton with two fouls I the first half probably helped us a little bit," Montgomery said. "In the first three minutes of the second half, we jumped them a little bit and that really helped."

But it was the Beavers' three-point shooting that proved to be their biggest Achilles heel on the evening. Oregon State shot just 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc, and just 1-of-9 in the first half.

"I think we don't get as tired as before, so that's a plus," Gutierrez said. "I think we're very comfortable in (the zone) and teams aren't shooting as well as they were shooting before."

Cal, on the other hand, couldn't miss from just about anywhere on the floor. The Bears shot 31-of-61 (50.8 percent) from the field, 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) from three and 18-of-27 (66.7 percent) from the charity stripe. The Beavers, on the other hand, went 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) from the field.

Cal's bench shot 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) on the night, chipping in 19 points, chipping in 17 boards, three blocks, two assists and a steal.

"It's a little easier when you're up 20, and there's not so much pressure of having to think, 'Gosh, I've got to make this play,' or 'This is a game-winning play,' or anything like that," Montgomery said. "It's a little easier when you're at home and you're up 20 and things are going your way, so it makes it a little bit easier. But, you need those games, and maybe we didn't have many of those earlier in the season that allowed us to do that. That helps."

Notebook
• Cal has now improved its series lead against Oregon State to 76-59, all-time.

• The Bears' 85 points were the most against the Beavers since winning 91-66 on Jan. 29, 2005.

• Cal led, 36-26 at halftime, the third time this year that the Bears have been up by at least 10 points at the break.

• Cal finished the first half with 12 assists on 14 field goals. For the game, the Bears recorded a season-high 23 assists on 31 field goals.

• Kamp extended his run of double-digit performances to nine in a row. During the stretch - which dates back to Dec. 28 against Hartford - Kamp is averaging 17.0 ppg, and in his last five games, is shooting 34-of-59 (57.6 percent).

• Solomon sank his third three-pointer of the year with 8:08 left in the game. The 6-foot-9 true freshman out of Los Angeles Price struggled a bit in the first half, sinking back into his early-season tentativeness before a halftime tongue-lashing from Montgomery whipped him back into shape. In the first half, Solomon missed both his free throws and did not take a shot from the field, recording just one rebound and turning the ball over once.

In the second half, Solomon went 3-of-4 from the field (including one slam dunk), 1-of-1 from three and scored seven points while adding four more rebounds, three blocks and a steal.

"We've got guys that get nervous, and we just need to get them acclimated to what's going on out there," Montgomery said. "I thought he got out-physicall-ed early in the first half, and he did a better job in the second."

• The Bears got 19 points from the bench, led by the seven points from Solomon and six from sophomore Bak Bak.

"Everybody likes Bak and likes to see him do that, but from my perspective it's the game of basketball and that's what he should be doing," Montgomery said. "It shouldn't be an aberration; it should be what he does. This is where we can get the ball to him and everybody does what they do. The more confidence we get, the better off we're going to be."

Bak also tallied five boards in his 14 minutes.

"It means a lot, actually," Bak said of making the most of his chance to contribute. "It gives me some kind of confidence to play good and make sure I'm in a good position to play."

Another big bench contributor was true freshman Emerson Murray, who played 11 minutes, scoring three points on his only shot (a nice shake-off three from the left elbow with 4:09 left in the game) while throwing in two boards and two assists.

"We need some confidence with some guys off the bench," Montgomery said. "We do have some people that, when something goes well early, they tend to play a little bit better, which I suppose is natural, but I guess that's the toughness aspect of it. You've got to get bloodied and then come back and adjust and play well."

Jeff Powers scored his first career points for the Bears, making a three-pointer with just over a minute left.

• After being outrebounded by a combined 28 boards over the previous three games, Cal was plus-six (42-36) against the Beavers.


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