If Jorge Gutierrez could shut down the nation’s leading scorer on Friday, surely he could stop the country’s fourth leading scorer on Monday.
Except Gutierrez did not play in the Cal men’s basketball team’s 70-50 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Monday night at Haas Pavilion. The senior guard, who held Weber State’s Damian Lillard to a woeful 4-for-17 shooting night Friday, had food poisoning and did not suit up against the Gauchos (5-4) in the Pete Newell Classic.
Gutierrez, along with forwards Harper Kamp and Robert Thurman, all got sick on Sunday, Montgomery said.
“Two of them were in the health service getting IVs,” Montgomery said. “Jorge was dead, he was laying in the training room and couldn’t go. So that was kind of a surprise.
“I thought the kids really responded well.”
Kamp started and played 33 minutes, but the Bears (10-2), already missing starting center Richard Solomon to a stress fracture, were short-handed without their leader. Who would replicate Gutierrez’s defense against UCSB’s Orlando Johnson, who averages 22.4 points per game? Who would replace Gutierrez’s offense, as he is second on the team in scoring and logged 24 points against Weber State?
Both answers appeared to be Justin Cobbs. The sophomore point guard, now a fixture in coach Mike Montgomery’s starting lineup, scored a career-high 25 points and helped force Johnson into a a 4-for-13 shooting effort. Johnson, a 44 percent 3-point shooter, missed all three of his attempts and totaled just nine points.
“Justin Cobbs was spectacular,” Montgomery said. “The matchup that would have been Jorge on Orlando Johnson, we thought that was a matchup that we had. Justin accepted the challenge and did a great job.”
Cobbs was nearly perfect from the field. The transfer from Minnesota shot 10-of-12 overall and was 3-for-3 from long range and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe.
“Just was in rhythm tonight,” Cobbs said. “Just had to go out there and pick up the slack and go out there and be aggressive.”
The Gauchos, coming off a seven-point loss at Washington in which they led at the half, failed to put the same scare into the Bears that they put into the Huskies.
Cal never trailed, opening the game with three consecutive 3-pointers. As a whole, the Bears shot 11-for-20 from beyond the arc; UCSB, meanwhile, made just 2-of-12 from downtown.
“It was a good win,” Montgomery said. “We just jumped them early and really defended well.”
Senior guard James Nunnally’s 3-pointer right before the halftime buzzer cut Cal’s lead to 14. The Gauchos even narrowed the gap to 10 when Jaime Serna hit a jumper four minutes into the second half. But the Bears responded with a 16-0 run that spanned nearly six minutes.
Allen Crabbe scored eight points, including two 3-pointers, on the scoring streak. The sophomore guard finished with 19 points and six rebounds.
Junior point guard Brandon Smith, starting in Gutierrez’s place, pitched in eight points and seven assists. The Bears’ front court starters, Kamp and David Kravish, combined for 15 points and 14 boards.
“It showed that we have other weapons on the team,” Crabbe said. “Once everybody realized Jorge wasn’t going to be able to (play), everybody just got it in their head that they were gonna have to step up, each and every player. So that’s what we did tonight.”
The win concludes Cal’s non-conference home schedule; the Bears went 9-0 and have yet to give up 60 points at Haas Pavilion. They head to Las Vegas to face UNLV on Friday at 2 p.m. before opening Pac-12 play at home against USC on Dec. 29.