Bears Win Sixth Straight

The California Golden Bears opened Pac-10 play with a resounding 69-55 victory over perennial Pac-10 power Arizona on Friday night in Haas Pavilion. Patrick Christopher scored a game-high 23 points – 15 coming after the break – helping lead lead Cal to its sixth straight win…

California Head Coach Mike Montgomery asked his team in the locker room after his Cal Bears opened up the Pac-10 season with an impressive 69-55 victory or the University of Arizona, "Why did we win this game?" The answer was a unanimous one, "Defense!"

"We played good defense," said Montgomery. "We took the key people and made it tougher for them. Once we got the feel for what they were doing, we did a pretty good job and it led to some offensive opportunities."

The Golden Bears home crowd was in it from the opening tip, and Cal seemed to feed off it. The Bears held one of the Wildcats better shooters, Chase Budinger, to a terrible night of offense going 4-16. Cal's smothering defense limited Arizona to 25 points in the second half as the Bears improved to 12-2 overall but maybe more importantly, 1-0 in Pac-10 play.

"We've got a bunch of guys that are good players, and if you're a good basketball team, you're going to find the guy that seems to have right matchup or has the hot hand," said Montgomery. "It's important that everybody understands that, and I think this, at least for right now, validates that we can play in this league."

What appeared to possibly be a weakness in the preseason, rebounding, was a strength and a key to victory on Friday nigh. The numbers were even with each team bringing down a total of 34 each, however the Wildcats were held to only 2 offensive rebounds in the first half as Cal controlled the glass.

The first half was played at a bit of an erratic pace due to some questionable officiating and to Arizona coming out after their first made basket in a full court pressure mode. A trapping zone the Wildcats employed did not allow Cal to get into the flow of their offense early. The pressure and zone was not unexpected by the Bears. Coach Montgomery had his team well prepared for it citing that Cal's Sunday opponent, Arizona State, plays a similar defense.

"One thing that helped us a little bit is that this week was all about zone [defense]", Montgomery said.

The star of the second half was junior guard Patrick Christopher. He poured in 15 of his game high 23 points in the second stanza, courtesy of some great interior passing from Harper Kamp and a few highlight-reel-worthy ally-oop dunks. More impressive than that may be the intensity Christopher showed on the defensive end.

Early in the first half he switched to cover Arizona point guard Nic Wise and was the main defender in the second half on Chase Budinger.

"We know [Patrick Christopher] is a great shooter, but now it seems he is taking pride in his defense," said Montgomery.

"Everybody knows that Arizona is a very quality team, and for us to be able to play with them and play that well gives us some confidence that, hey, we can play well and we can play in this league."

Game Notes

  • Cal continued it's hot shooting from three-point land. Theo Robertson led the charge going 3-5 from beyond the arc, with Randle and Christopher both hitting 2 out of 4.
  • Coach Montgomery showed why he was able to have a consistent winner with the Cardinal. He made some brilliant adjustments during the game. Putting Harper Kamp on C Jordan Hill, who was abusing Jordan Wilkes early, was key. Kamp also played a beautiful high-low game with Patrick Christopher leading to some easy inside points for Christopher.
  • Cal closed the last eight minutes of the game outscoring Arizona 14-4.
  • The Bears need to work on finishing and going up strong inside. The halftime lead could have been much larger if it were not for a number of misses in close.

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