Nov. 20, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -
California knows it is still the defending Pac-10 champion, even if others figure this rebuilding program will fall well out of conference contention.
Harper Kamp scored a career-high 25 points, Jorge Gutierrez also scored a career best with 20 points to go with six rebounds, and Cal handed New Mexico its first loss of the young season with an 89-64 victory Saturday night.
"My teammates showed a lot about their character tonight. I'm excited," Kamp said. "It's just the first step."
Freshman Gary Franklin hit four 3-pointers on the way to 16 points for the Golden Bears (2-0), who are playing with impressive effort and energy despite their youth. Franklin hit back-to-back 3s during a decisive 17-1 run midway through second half as Cal pulled away.
"It was pretty encouraging all the way around _ we were able to get a run, had energy, the bench was alive," coach Mike Montgomery said.
Dairese Gary scored 16 points and Jamal Fenton 14 for the Lobos (2-1), who won their first outright Mountain West Conference championship in 16 years last season and have been to the postseason in each of coach Steve Alford's first three years.
After Gary's 3-pointer with 15:34 left pulled New Mexico within 46-44, Cal answered with the big run and didn't let the Lobos back in it.
Kamp shot 9 for 17, made all six of his free throws and also had six rebounds. He is back from his redshirt season spent recovering from knee surgery. The 6-foot-8 junior forward started one game in his first two years in Berkeley.
Gutierrez went 6 for 9 from the field and converted 7 of 11 free throws. He also had three steals. Reserve Brandon Smith added nine points and seven assists.
The Bears now get their first big test, hitting the road to Orlando, Fla., for the Old Spice Classic. They open against Temple on Thursday and will play three games in four days.
The trip will tell a lot about the defending Pac-10 champions, who are coming off the school's first conference title in 50 years but are hardly the same team.
"Oh man, I think we can be really good," Gutierrez said. "We don't really listen to what people on the outside say about us."
Montgomery, in his third season, has one of his most inexperienced teams in nearly three decades coaching college basketball. Cal lost its top four scorers and features mostly freshmen and sophomores _ and Gutierrez and Markhuri Sanders-Frison had started a combined 23 games for Cal coming into this season.
"I think they're listening, and that's encouraging," Montgomery said. "I think they're trying to figure out what we're talking about."
Cal is picked to finish seventh in the Pac-10.
"Personally that sometimes fuels me, people doubting us," Kamp said.
The Lobos fought back late in the first half after a slow start by making 6 of 11 3-point tries. They finished 8 for 18 from long range but hurt their chances with 18 turnovers. The Bears also outrebounded New Mexico 37-35.
"We're not planning on finishing seventh but we've got to go out and play every game," Montgomery said. "If this indeed can sustain itself it's a pretty big step forward."
Cal leads the all-time series 5-2 but lost 86-78 last season in Albuquerque. The Bears beat the Lobos 68-66 in the first round of the 2008 NIT at home in Haas Pavilion.
New Mexico missed its first four shots on Saturday before Kendall Williams' uncontested layin at the 17:55 mark. Cal began 4 for 6 from the floor to build a 12-4 lead, also working hard on the defensive end _ drawing two offensive fouls, forcing four turnovers and getting two blocked shots, all in the opening five minutes.
"We had a lot of holes in our defense and they did a good job of exploiting that," Alford said. "I just thought that they played at a really high level tonight and we had the second half that we'd just as soon forget."
The Lobos were 3 for 12 at one point early but wound up at 48 percent in the first half to pull within 38-36 at the break.
New Mexico is 27-85 all-time on the road against Pac-10 opponents.