Game Notes: Cal 77, Depaul 67
Coach Montgomery elected to go to his bench early in the game, with Jorge Gutierrez, Harper Kamp, Max Zhang, and D.J. Seeley getting action. "Going into the game, I thought we were tired. I commented to the guys, we looked tired to me." However, Montgomery indicated that it is part of a growing process for this team. "We got a lot going on right now, running into finals. Guys are probably looking at what they've got to get done. We were on the road Friday, Saturday, and Sunday [with a road trip to Missouri coming up]."
Much of the Bears' early scoring came from junior guard Patrick Christopher, who scored 12 of the Bears' first 20 points, namely on 17-foot jumpshots. Christopher wound up with 16 points at halftime, and finished with 23. "Tonight, Patrick had a very good game," Montgomery said. "He made some shots early that he hadn't been making."
DePaul scored 10 of their first 12 points in the paint, perhaps making the crowd of 9,017 believe that DePaul would try to take advantage of their size in the paint. However, after Zhang came in and blocked an attempted shot at the 8:56 mark, the Blue Demons seemed very timid for the rest of the half. After that point, the Blue Demons only scored two more points in the paint until the half.
The Bears' closed out the first half on a 28-8 run. Among the highlights included a spectacular alley-oop from Randle to Christopher, a key block by freshman center Max Zhang leading to a fastbreak Randle layup, and a three-point basket by D.J. Seeley, prompting DePaul to use a timeout. Such plays were instrumental in giving Cal a 14-point lead at halftime.
In the 2nd half, the scrappy Blue Demons pulled off runs of 7-0, 11-1, and 6-0 to pull within 57-56 with 6:30 to go in the game. The Blue Demons changed from a man-to-man to a zone defense, giving Cal fits as they forced turnovers. Offensively, the Blue Demons made it a mission to move the ball and attack the basket. DePaul shot 21 free throws in the game, with 16 of them coming in the second half.
However, when DePaul clawed its way back into the game, Jerome Randle simply stole the show. With 4:39 left remaining in the contest and the Bears only up by 2, Randle hit an NBA-range three-point shot, which got the crowd fully into the game and gave the Bears much-needed momentum. "I didn't think about it. I just took the shot when I was open," said Randle.
Randle also showed his poise two possessions later. With the Bears up by 4 with under four minutes to play, Randle instinctively penetrated the zone and found a wide-open Patrick Christopher in the corner, who nailed the three-point shot and gave the Bears a 7-point lead. Randle also made 5-of-6 free throw attempts down the stretch.
For DePaul, two glaring statistics stood out that could have very well changed the outcome of the game: The Blue Demons shot a miserable 3-for-17 (17.6%) from the 3-point line and a terrible 10-21 (47.6%) from the free throw line. "You can't win on the road shooting 10-for-21 from the free throw line," DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright said.
The Bears' twenty turnovers prompted coach Mike Montgomery to call the Bears' play "sloppy," but acknowledged that part of the problem was DePaul's zone defense. "We obviously didn't handle [DePaul's] zone very well. In fairness to our guys, we haven't seen a zone yet this year. Their zone was a little bit different in that they were really getting to our perimeter people overplaying passing lanes, and allowing the ball in the paint, and we didn't take very good advantage of that."
Among the notable statistics from Wednesday night: junior guard Theo Robertson set a career high with 9 assists, and junior center Jordan Wilkes set his own career high with 10 rebounds. Christopher's 23 points were just 3 shy of his career high.
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