Facing its first true competition of the season, the No. 20 Cal men’s basketball team was deadlocked with Georgia. Back and forth the lead went — a jumper on one side, a layup on the other.
Gradually, the Bears began to pull away. It started with a layup by point guard Brandon Smith. On the next possession, senior guard Jorge Gutierrez charged up the court and found a wide open Allen Crabbe in the corner for a 3-pointer. What was a three-point deficit before Smith’s basket turned into an 11-point halftime lead. The 14-0 surge to close out the half turned into a 31-4 run, and Cal had itself another double-digit win, cruising to 70-46 victory over the Bulldogs at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
The Bears (4-0) move on to face No. 21 Missouri on Tuesday night in the CBE Classic title game.
Once Cal’s offense settled down and stopped rushing shots and turning the ball, it was smooth sailing for Mike Montgomery’s club. The Bears made half of their 50 field goal attempts and were 5-of-11 form 3-point range. Crabbe, a sophomore stud, scored just nine points, but the three threes he hit came at big times.
Georgia’s sophomore forward Donte’ Williams dunked at the 18:28 mark of the second half to stop a nearly seven-minute scoring drought for the Bulldogs (3-1). But the reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year answered with another 3-pointer.
Nevertheless, it was Cal’s seniors that led the way. Forward Harper Kamp was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field for a game-high 16 points. Gutierrez was all over the court, hitting midrange jumpers and pounding his way into the lane for crafty layup for a total of 14 points to go along with seven rebounds.
It seemed apt that Gutierrez would be the one to finish off the Bears’ run. A little over seven minutes into the second half, Cal forced a 35-second shot clock violation. Richard Solomon hit a jumper before Gutierrez finished things off with a layup. Georgia head coach Mark Fox quickly called his second timeout of the half to stop the bleeding.
The Bulldogs played Cal evenly from there on out, but it was too late. After three games in which Cal would build a huge halftime lead and then watch it slip away in the second period, the Bears held steady throughout the game. Georgia shot a paltry 32.8 percent from the field and missed 15 of its 19 3-point attempts. The Bulldogs’ star freshman Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a McDonald’s All American who came in averaging 13.3 points per game, was held to just 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
Cal’s blow out, however, was not the biggest rout in the building. Before the tilt, Missouri crushed Notre Dame, 87-58, behind 26 points from senior guard Marcus Denmon. The Tigers head into their Tuesday night face off against the Bears with an identical 4-0 record.
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