Jayhawks Fend Off Aggressive Bears in Feisty Affair

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It's another top-10 opponent and another double-digit loss, but the Cal men's basketball team clarified on Wednesday night that it will fiercely compete regardless of circumstance.

In a physical bout that featured all sorts of hustling and tussling, Cal fought hard but could not hit the key shots to knock off No. 3 Kansas, dropping 78-63 on Wednesday night at Haas Pavilion. Tonight was the first sellout of the season with a recorded attendance of 11,250.

Markieff Morris led the Jayhawks with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Jorge Gutierrez paced the home side with 15 points. Markhuri Sanders-Frison pitched in 10 points and 12 rebounds and Allen Crabbe spread out the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals.

Despite the relatively wide margin of defeat, the Bears kept the dynamic Jayhawks off-kilter in several points throughout the game and showed unyielding fight against a bigger, stronger and faster Kansas squad. Coach Mike Montgomery's team cut a 17-point second-half deficit to three with 12:48 remaining, but never found a way to tie the game in the second half.

Kansas lost Marcus Morris with 17:23 remaining in the second half after he was called for a flagrant foul on Harper Kamp. Tangled together when boxing out, Morris hit Kamp with a vicious elbow that prompted his ejection and removed one of the Jayhawk's top post threats.

"It was a physical game. I love to play physical," Sanders-Frison said. "And we were ready to play physical. It was two teams going really hard and that was it."

Kansas coach Bill Self admired the feistiness of the affair, but was not pleased with his team's reactions.

"On the positive side, that was the most fun game we played all year," Self said. "They just have to learn how to handle it better ... We need to mature, we don't have a mature team and we have known that from the beginning. They are competitive, though. They like to compete."

Things got even more chippy just over one minute later when Gutierrez and Kansas forward Thomas Robinson tied up for a loose ball and exchanged some face shoving at the bottom of the pile. Both were issued technical fouls and the incident sent the referees to the monitor for the third time in the game.

"You've got to love Jorge. He's the greatest but he's a stubborn son of a gun," Montgomery said. "If you attack him he'll come back at you. That's his nature that is what makes him so good. There are times when you have to recognize that you have three fouls and you can't afford to get a fourth."

A furious 13-0 run featured some of the finest basketball that Cal has played this season and it was predominantly on the defensive end, highlighted by Crabbe's block of Selby with 14:15 left in the game. Despite a notable size disadvantage, Cal forced Kansas into difficult shots from the perimeter and contested most everything that Kansas tried inside the paint.

Fanning the hype flames is always a dangerous decision, but even against the Bears' high-pressure defense, Josh Selby looked like a budding star in the first half. Appearing in only his second game of the season, Selby hit five of six shots in the first half and eventually finished 6 for 13 with 18 points, four assists and two steals.

"Selby just made plays," Montgomery said. "He ends up getting by people shooting floaters and off of the dribble. That's the kind of thing that makes a big difference."

Selby still isn't in the starting lineup, but he played more first-half minutes than every player except senior Tyrel Reed, who turned in an impressive defensive performance for the Jayhawks. The fabulous freshman showcased just about all of his talents before the horn sounded for halftime, calmly knocking down all three of his three-point attempts, navigating the fast break with tremendous command and gliding past defenders in traffic.

Despite hard work all game on defense and forcing Kansas mostly into difficult shots, Cal could not keep up with the bigger, stronger Jayhawks down the stretch.

The Jayhawks received their typically strong contributions from the brawny Markieff Morris, but the disciplined fundamentals of Reed and Selby, as well as the relentless hustle of Robinson and guard Travis Releford, elevated Kansas late in the game.

In a trend that is certainly nerve-racking for the Bears, Cal struggled again from the free throw line, making only 19 of 33 from the charity stripe.

"The free throw situation is scary because we were getting to the basket, we were getting foul calls and then we weren't getting anything out of it," Montgomery said. "Those are 14 points that we gave away ... Against a great team like that you cannot do that."

Much like the Bears' loss at San Diego State, the heart, the energy and the passion were not the problem; it was the shooting that eventually doomed Cal.

But if Wednesday was any indication, the Bears won't quit their attitude anytime soon.

"We always play hard," Crabbe said. "That's our thing. Everybody is always doubting us and telling us we're not going to do good this year. We want to prove people wrong and put it out there with all we have when we step out on the court."


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

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