Lampley Can't Do It All By Himself

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GREENSBORO, N.C. - There's a story Wake Forest coach Dave Odom wanted to tell after his Demon Deacons defeated the Cal men's basketball team in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament two Fridays ago.

As Odom paced the sidelines in the first half, Bears junior Sean Lampley - on his way to a first-half 16-point, seven-rebound performance - ran by Wake Forest's bench seemingly taunting the players residing on the pine.

"You can't guard me," said Odom, repeating the words of Lampley.

No Sean, they couldn't. But they sure could guard just about everyone else.

In the final game of the season for the Bears, a game which would have garnered them a return trip to the NIT final four had they came away victorious, Cal reverted to its infant stage - one seemingly stamped, sealed and all but copyrighted by the Bears this season.

The dish-and-wish.

Lob the ball to Lampley in the post or at the top of the key. Then stand and pray as the forward valiantly tries to create some offense while being double and triple-teamed.

The formula, heavily reliant on the mobility of other players to cut to the basket or move around the perimeter for success, worked like a charm during the Bears' season-opening Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska last November.

Cal point guard Shantay Legans directed a smooth offensive attack, dishing out seven assists and helping himself to 13 points against Texas Christian.

Two nights later, Lampley had a 26-point, 12-rebound performance, and Joe Shipp a superb 14-point, nine-rebound supporting effort against Houston.

And Nick Vander Laan had the best game of his season the next day, notching 23 points and seven rebounds against NCAA Tournament-bound Oklahoma.

I saw the Bears then, and it was beautiful. The ball moved almost flawlessly from Legans to Lampley and back out to perimeter players that moved just as fluidly without the ball.

But I was also there in North Carolina to see an outmatched Bears squad get overpowered by the Demon Deacons.

And it wasn't pretty.

The nonconference, identity-seeking, ball-moving Bears that had compiled a 9-3 record to start the year were long gone.

And in its place stood a squad whose identity was never in doubt.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?

Sean Lampley, of course, after 33 games and countless practices, no matter which angle or degree you rotated the Bears.

Lampley has single-handedly defined the Bears this season, but probably not in the way Cal coach Ben Braun imagined at the beginning of the season.

As the Pac-10 season progressed, the more Braun asked of Lampley, the more Lampley delivered, and the more the team seemed to be lost.

"A lot of times when we go to him, we tend to stand around, and that makes us easy to guard," sophomore wing Ryan Forehan-Kelly admitted after the loss to Wake Forest. "That movement is something we've been working on all year long."

Of the 13 times Lampley led the Bears in scoring during the regular season, Cal recorded eight losses. And in the three NIT games the Bears played in, they were led by Lampley each time. It was only a matter of time before the Bears were dealt a loss.

"When you get a player that feels (like Sean did), you get the feeling that he was going to beat us, not Cal," Odom said. "We thought we had his mind at that point."

His mind maybe. But not his heart. That he gave every ounce of to the Bears, and in the cruelest irony, that's probably the reason why Cal couldn't prevail this season.

For now, the dish-and-wish prevails at Haas Pavilion. But after a full offseason of training and weight-lifting and the addition of a few capable power forwards to take the rebounding and scoring load of Lampley, maybe, just maybe, the dish-and-wish can become the dish-and-swish.


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