Dec 29, 2001
BERKELEY - Playing only its second game in 17 days, Cal struggled on the offensive end, but came through with a strong enough effort to defeat Harvard, 69-54, in the opening round of the Golden Bear Classic Friday night.
With the win, the Bears (8-1) advance to Saturday's championship game at 7 p.m. against Penn State, a 66-49 winner over Coppin State in the other first-round game. Harvard will play Coppin State in the consolation game at 4:30 p.m.
Senior center Solomon Hughes led the attack with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. However, Cal got most of its spark on the defensive end, mainly from sophomore guard A.J. Diggs and freshman forward Jamal Sampson. Diggs played just 11 minutes, but tied a tournament record with six steals, while Sampson pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds.
The Bears opened the game with eight straight points, getting four points from Sampson. Harvard (7-5), though, stayed in the game with aggressive play and didn't let the lead reach double digits until Cal took a 28-17 advantage on a Ryan Forehan-Kelly three-pointer. At the half, the Bears were up, 37-25.
After intermission, Shantay Legans sank back-to-back three-pointers and Cal led by at least 15 points just about the rest of the way.
Despite the 15-point win, the Bears shot just 35.4 percent from the floor and made 7-of-25 from three-point range. Still, Cal limited Harvard to 37.3 percent shooting, forced 25 turnovers and picked off 14 steals.
The Bears are in the Golden Bear Classic title game for the ninth consecutive year and can with their sixth championship with a win Saturday.
Cal head coach Ben Braun postgame quotes:
On the game overall:
"We came out early in the first and second halves with a lot of intensity. I give Harvard credit ... they didn't let the game get away from them. Patrick Harvey (24 points) was a very tough player to defend. He drove inside and hit the three from outside. We've been off for a while, and defensively we weren't up to it tonight. They got too many open looks and sunk the three-pointers. They played hard ... at times harder than us. As a result, they caught up to us and played harder than us at times."
On the shot selection:
"Brian Wethers struggled a little tonight. Some shots that he missed were acceptable though. What I mean is that some of the shots that he missed were good shots ... layups and rebounds in the paint. We've had a long layoff ... 2 games in almost 20 days. It takes time to get back into game shape."
On Amit Tamir, who made his Cal debut Friday with 6 points:
"He came out early and did some good things. It's going to take some time for him to get into game shape though. At times, I think he tried to do more than he needed to do. The thing that I liked is that when he's trying to make plays, it's to help his teammates. He's a very heady player that can make shots and is a continual threat to pass the ball."