Second-Half Barrage Pushes Bears Past Matadors

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In Monday's press conference, Cal men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery said that Cal State Northridge would throw several different defenses at the Bears in their season opener.

The Bears dealt with mostly zone, some man and some half-court traps, but Northridge stuck mostly to their foul-a-minute defense on its way to a 80-63 loss at Haas Pavilion Tuesday night.

No Matador player was worthy of any "oles," slapping on the perimeter and hacking in the post. The Matadors compiled 17 first-half fouls and an unbelievable 39 offenses for the game. Despite trailing by one point at the half, the Cal used a 21-5 run to start the second half that anchored its win.

Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez led the Bears with a career-high 18 points and eight assists and senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison turned in his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Matadors' Rashaun McLemore led all scorers with 24 points.

The veterans eased a night that marked the first ever college basketball game for five different Cal players and the return of junior forward Harper Kamp, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.

"We're players who have experience," Sanders-Frison said. "The freshmen look to us to help us out when they're struggling and we're going to encourage them when they make mistakes."

For Kamp, it was just nice to return after such a prolonged absence.

"I was pretty nervous today, my stomach was hurting all day," he said. "As soon as I get out on the court and warming up, talking and having fun, I was thankful to be back out there."

Allen Crabbe, Gary Franklin, Richard Solomon, Emerson Murray and Robert Thurman all made their debuts tonight for the very youthful Bears.

Cal held Northridge to five points over the first 8:59 of the second half and jumped out to a quick second-half lead that never vanished. The Matadors responded with a rough, sloppy game that consisted mostly of jumpers on offense and clunky, abrasive defense.

Montgomery emphasized that you can only expect so much when that many new players take the floor for the first time, and the first half was a struggle on offense. The Bears were trying to get some kind of offensive rhythm, but were constantly disrupted by Northridge's foul-happy defensive tactics.

Amazingly, the Matadors effectively shared the foul wealth and no player fouled out. Six different players finished with four fouls. The Bears' 22 first-half foul shots were more shots than they took in 20 full games last year. They would finish with 31 makes on 50 attempts, a final tally that Montgomery did not find acceptable.

"I scolded these guys," Montgomery said. "We have a contest every day after practice We've got to shoot free throws every day with running on the line. I was a little shocked that we missed free throws like we did."

Northridge hit the Bears with a barrage of perimeter shooting in the first half, knocking down 6-of-9 attempts from three-point range. It turned cold in a hurry; the Matadors knocked down just 2-of-13 from downtown thereafter.

Of the five freshmen, Crabbe had the best night, shooting 3-of-5 for eight points and pulling down four rebounds.

The Bears return to action on 7 p.m. Saturday against New Mexico at Haas Pavilion.


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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