For the first 7:31 of the game, Cal was out-hustled, out-physicaled, and frankly outplayed. As a result, the Bears found themselves immediately down 20-10 to rival UCLA.
It was then that guard Jerome Randle decided to simply not let the outcome go into UCLA's favor. The senior stepped up and began directing a comeback, leading to California's 85-72 win over UCLA at Staples Center. The win sends Cal into the Pac-10 Tournament finale to be played Saturday.
With the Bears down 39-32 with under a minute to go in the first half, Randle simply made the play that stemmed the tide. With time running out, Randle drained a 3-point basket, bringing Cal a wave of momentum and confidence that they simply would not relinquish in the second half.
As a result, the Bears came out and dominated in the second half, outscoring UCLA 50-33. On a night when Randle broke California's all-time scoring record with 1,790 points, the senior guard quickly brushed off his feat and wanted to focus on the victory.
"We knew what we were going up against and we wanted to come in and try to be aggressive," said Randle. "[UCLA] came in and played really hard in the beginning."
"We didn't want to back down, so we came in the second half and threw the first punch."
And so, an-already amazing career has its grasp firm on the individual accomplishments: the all-time scoring record, Pac-10 Player of the Year, and undoubted leader.
But the focus is on what is still up for grabs, a Pac-10 Tournament championship and the chance to go deep into the NCAA Tournament.
The first goal can be attained tomorrow, with a victory in the championship match on Saturday.
The second goal can be better attained with a better seed, which will be accomplished with that same victory.
And will anybody doubt the little guy who has done so much, to get them there?
"It is hard to imagine setting a scoring record like that," Head Coach Mike Montgomery said. "There have been a lot of great players at Cal."
"And he's been really good the last half of this season."
Montgomery did not even hesitate to add to his sentence.
"The best he's ever been."
And that's pretty darn good.
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