Dec. 28, 2010
A few minutes after notching his 600th career victory, California coach Mike Montgomery asked his players for more.
"He said, 'Can we get to 612 or 615 by the end of the season?'" said freshman guard Allen Crabbe after the Golden Bears' 74-56 victory over Hartford on Tuesday night.
"We just laughed about it. It was like a challenge for us, to see if we can go out and get some victories in the Pac-10, that's all."
After an up-and-down nonconference schedule, the Golden Bears can finally look to defending their first Pac-10 crown in 50 years after helping Montgomery reach his milestone.
The veteran coach, who spent two years in the NBA with the Golden State Warriors before returning to the college ranks and taking over at Cal in 2008, became only the seventh active coach to reach 600 Division I wins.
After the game, Montgomery walked behind the bench to slap hands with his wife, daughter and other relatives before exiting the court with his players.
"It's an even number," Montgomery deadpanned. "I've worked with a lot of good coaches, I've had a lot of good teams and a lot of good players who put in a lot of time and effort and taken a lot of abuse from me. I'm thankful to have the opportunity way back 29 years ago at Montana and to still be doing it."
Crabbe scored 17 points on a career-high five 3-pointers, Harper Kamp had 19 points and nine rebounds and Richard Solomon added 10 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for the Golden Bears (7-5), who led by 25 in the first meeting between the schools.
Montgomery, in his third season at Cal, reached No. 600 in his second attempt and less than a week after the Bears lost to No. 3 Kansas 78-63 on Dec. 22 in an emotion-filled game marred by three technical fouls.
This one wasn't as dramatic nor was it close, even though the Bears played without leading rebounder Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who was given the night off by Montgomery. The 265-pound junior has been bothered by plantar fasciitis in both feet but is expected to play Sunday against Stanford.
Cal didn't miss him much.
The Bears shot 57.1 percent in the first half, opened the second half with a 16-5 run and outrebounded the Hawks 43-30.
Genesis Maciel and Joe Zeglinski scored 11 points apiece for Hartford (2-9), which dropped its fourth straight under first-year coach John Gallagher.
Even with the score out of reach, Montgomery stayed fired up. He stomped both feet in anger after backup forward Bak Bak missed a dunk with 11:34 left, then yelled at Solomon for being out of position after the freshman committed a turnover.
"We're playing pretty hard on defense, but we have lapses," Montgomery said. "We've got to avoid the collapses. Everything needs to get better. We can shoot it better, we can run the floor better ... and we will."
Only when the final buzzer sounded did Montgomery celebrate his 53rd win at Cal _ the others came at Stanford (393) and Montana (154).
"Probably the same (feeling) I had at 599," Montgomery said. "Just happy to get a win."
Fittingly, Montgomery will try for No. 601 when the Bears open defense of their Pac-10 title Sunday at Stanford.
Hartford, meanwhile, will remain in the Bay Area for a game at Saint Mary's on New Year's Eve. The Hawks then return home to host St. Francis on Jan. 3 before their America East conference opener at Maine two days later.
The three games in six days is a stark contrast to the break Hartford was coming off. The Hawks hadn't played since losing to Monmouth in double overtime Dec. 11 before suffering their second-worst defeat of the season against Cal.
Milton Burton gave Hartford a brief moment of hope in the second half. He scored six points as part of a 9-3 run that cut Cal's lead to 62-46 with 7:25 remaining. Kamp then scored on a layup and later added a free throw to end the Bears' brief slide.
Sanders-Frison, dressed in street clothes, addressed his teammates before the game and delivered a brief but fiery message.
It seemed to work.
Cal, which was only 4 of 22 on 3-pointers in the loss to the Jayhawks, had four 3s in the first half alone against Hartford. Crabbe had three as the Bears built a 17-point lead behind a pair of big runs.
Kamp, who was held to eight points against Kansas, matched that in the first half. Crabbe added 11 and Solomon had 10 for Cal, which led 59-35 at the break.
Brandon Smith finished with 15 points for the Bears.