Randle, a sophomore, said after Cal's slow start against Long Beach State in the opening game of this tournament that he would not allow that to happen again. He was as good as his word, but not until after the intermission.
Randle had seven points at the break, while Patrick Christopher and DeVon Hardin each had no points or rebounds; the Bison out-rebounded the Bears 24-14 in the first session, and they led 35-28 on the scoreboard.
"In the first half, we didn't focus on getting the ball low," Anderson said. "We knew they were going to double team. We weren't running our fast-break offense, doing the things we normally do at the post."
At the same time, NDSU intentionally tried to take the paint away from Cal, according to Bison head coach Saul Phillips. "We tried to play down low and conceded some open looks from the perimeter, which was scary the night after they set the record for three-point shots."
Cal started the game on fire from the outside, perhaps still smoldering from Friday's record binge, nailing four three-point shots in the first five minutes of play and getting out to a 14-9 lead with 14:28 to play. Then they went ice-cold, however, and didn't hit another shot from the floor for a stretch of 6:17. In the final 14:28 of the first half, the Bears hit only four shots - which is also how many they missed in the final seven seconds of play before halftime.
After the intermission, it looked like two different teams on the floor. Despite trailing by seven at the half, there were some good signs for Cal - they had held NDSU's tandem of Brett Winkelman and Ben Woodside, the nation's highest-scoring teammates, to just 18 points. On Friday night, the pair enjoyed their fifth game this season where they combined for 50 or more.
On Saturday night, coach Ben Braun had an answer. "We switched Patrick Christopher onto Winkelman in the second half - Patrick's our stopper. We shut Winkelman down in the second half - although Patrick struggled offensively, he did a very good job on him, holding him to one field goal in the second half."
"I got frustrated, couldn't get shots to fall," said the power forward of Christopher's smothering defense.
Couple that with two all-tournament team guys of their own, Anderson and Randle, who came out of the locker room after halftime with fire in their eyes. Randle hit a two and a three in the first 80 seconds of play, and Anderson matched the feat in a 29-second span in the period's third minute. Randle gave Cal a 40-39 lead with just 3:15 gone, and the game settled into a punch-counterpunch mode for the next five minutes.
"When Boykin and Kamp got on the floor in the second half," Braun said, "the whole complexion of the game changed. Their ability to get the rebounds, get to the basket, took some steam out of North Dakota State."
Kamp played 4½ minutes in that stretch. On the possession after he came in, Cal trailed by three, 53-50. When Kamp sat down at the 8:07 mark, they led 62-56 and were never headed again.
"Kamp gave them a real spark, and he's going to get overlooked," said Phillips. "He really hurt us, got them back in the right direction. We threw a lot of people at their interior players."
NDSU was impressed with Cal's dominance of the inside (Cal out-scored the Bison in the paint 24-12 in the second half) and of the glass late in the game. "No question they dominated us down the stretch on the boards - a lot of offensive rebounds," said Winkelman. "They were just too big for us. We usually handle that better, but credit them for getting down low. They were just relentless on the glass."
Phillips was even more emphatic. "The way Cal came out in the second half, it would have been difficult for any team to beat them. They will do well in the Pac-10. They might sneak up on some people and make some noise in this league. I have a lot of confidence in Coach Braun, and I don't want to play them again."
The two teams cannot meet again this year - NDSU is in the final year of transitioning from Division II to Division I, and is not eligible for post-season play. Nevertheless, this is a good program with solid players.
"This was absolutely a good game to have as the final non-conference (event)," Braun said. "This team reminds me of Washington State, fundamentally sound, good skill kids. Give NDSU some credit - they are a veteran team, they know how to play. You win at Wisconsin, Marquette, you've done something."
Braun said that Theo Robertson has been working extremely hard, and has been cleared for full practice, but that there still has been no decision on whether he will be activated for this season. "We remain optimistic about Theo, but we're not going to jeopardize his future if he's not ready to go. The decision whether to redshirt will include family and doctors, it's not just a coaching decision."
Braun said he'd weigh how much Robertson might be able to contribute against burning a year of his eligibility, but also acknowledged that if they get too far into the Pac-10 season the decision will "make itself."
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