After the Cal men’s basketball team’s win over Austin Peay in November, guard Brandon Smith claimed he is happiest whenever the other team’s best player is a shooting guard.
Why? Because that means Jorge Gutierrez will be defending him.
On Friday night, the assignment was Weber State’s Damian Lillard: The nation’s leading scorer and an Oakland native making his homecoming. The junior guard had gone for 41 points against San Jose State and 36 against St. Mary’s and his spectacular scoring began drawing the praise of pundits nationwide.
But like the Governors’ TyShwan Edmonson and San Jose State’s James Kinney before him, Lillard left just another leading scorer silenced by Gutierrez’s suffocating pressure.
Gutierrez haunted Lillard into his worst shooting night of the season, holding the vaunted scorer to 14 points on 4-of-17 shooting in the Bears’ 77-57 victory over the Wildcats at Haas Pavilion.
“It was tough because he’s a great player,” Gutierrez said. “It was great team defense. Everybody contributed to slowing him down.”
Weber State worked hard early to get the ball in Lillard’s hands. Despite utilizing numerous screens off the ball, Gutierrez successfully slashed through the Wildcat offensive sets and left Lillard with little room to operate.
“We knew that they ran a lot of pick and rolls for him so the post guys had to be partially responsible for containing him,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “Lillard is a really good athlete. He needs space to shoot the ball and Jorge isn’t going to give you that space. It was a good effort defensively.”
Along with his typically firm defense, Gutierrez kicked in one of his finest offensive performances of the season, scoring 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Allen Crabbe pitched in 16 points and six rebounds while Harper Kamp scored 11 points and grabbed seven boards.
Guard Scott Bamforth led Weber State with 19 points, anchored by some lights-out perimeter shooting. Bamforth finished 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.
The Bears held their third consecutive opponent to under 20 points in the first half and limited the Wildcats to a dismal 17 percent shooting in the first half. Cal never appeared to quite settle in offensively, but its ability to limit Lillard and the Weber State frontcourt allowed the Bears to build a comfortable 14-point halftime lead.
The Wildcats cut the lead to eight after knocking down five 3-pointers in the first five minutes, but Cal would answer with a 20-5 run that sealed a game that never appeared in question.