Flowers Blossoms in Second Half, Leads Southern Mississippi Past Cal

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Jorge Gutierrez gave up 20 pounds and nearly half a foot to Southern Mississippi's Gary Flowers.

But with Harper Kamp and Markhuri Sanders-Frison fouled out, he found himself defending the 6-foot-8, 214-pound forward in the waning moments of a 78-78 tie.

Height won out.

Flowers posted up on the left block and banked in an 8-foot turn-around jumper with three seconds remaining.

After Gutierrez's last-gasp three-pointer bounced off the rim, the Golden Eagles (7-1) escaped Haas Pavilion with a 80-78 victory and handed Cal its second consecutive non-conference home loss.

"We didn't have a lot of bigs, it was pretty obvious that's where they were gonna go," Bears coach Mike Mongtomery said of the game-ending sequence.

"Jorge, of all guys, might do the best job of getting a strip. They did a good job getting the ball to him. Maybe you would like to deny the ball to him if you possibly could ... I thought Jorge was our best bet. I still think the same way."

Flowers' game-winner capped off a dominant second half for the Dallas, Texas native, who scored his team's final 12 points down the stretch.

In just 27 minutes of play, he racked up 28 total points on 10-of-16 shooting, with 23 coming after intermission.

"He played well tonight," said Kamp, who went 7-for-7 from the field to lead the Bears with 20 points. "He's a good player who has a nice touch from the outside in and around the glass."

Even with Flowers' big afternoon, the contest could just as easily have belonged to the Bears (5-4). Cal held a 76-70 lead with 2:43 remaining after a three-pointer by Nigel Carter, but the team went the rest of the game without a field goal.

Kamp and Brandon Smith combined for three late turnovers, while Gutierrez and freshman guard Allen Crabbe both went 1-for-2 at the free throw line with under a minute remaining.

"We did not take care of the ball at the end of the game, that's where you have to have really good guard play at that point," Montgomery said. "We got to make sure we take care of games when we have them won, and we did have this game."

The Bears' late misses from the charity stripe were surprising, considering the practice that both teams got in the first half. Not at all shy with their whistles, the referees charged Cal and Southern Miss with 15 fouls apiece in the opening 20 minutes.

The two teams shot 38 combined free throws in a slow, sluggish first half that Montgomery called "abysmal."

"I didn't know what the heck was going on," Montgomery said. "Harper plays 22 minutes the whole game, Markhuri fouls out. Thank goodness for Nigel and Richard to go in and play."

Indeed, after demanding better bench play in the wake of Wednesday's loss, Mongtomery got his wish against the Golden Eagles.

Carter, in particular, turned in a stand-out performance. The junior walk-on chipped in five of his career-high 16 points in the first half, combining with Solomon for a 12-1 run that gave the Bears an early 18-17 lead.

Cal would go into halftime down, 41-40.

After Kamp scored 12 straight points out of halftime, Carter lifted a sputtering offense with three three-pointers. He finished a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc.

"When Nigel came in all of a sudden he made shots and kept us in the ball game. Thank goodness," Montgomery said. "We would have been in big trouble."


-- After outrebounding their last three opponents by +23, the Bears lost the battle of the boards (35-24) against Southern Miss. They finished with just two offensive rebounds, and failed to grab one in the first half.

-- Gary Franklin's shooting struggles continued on Sunday. Despite finally making a three point attempt, the freshman guard has gone 1-for-12 from the field over his last two games.

Said Montgomery: "Just keep working. Gary's a good player. We just got to stay with him ... those were shots he generally makes."


Ed Yevelev covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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