Feb. 13, 2010
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -California took the court for the second half with an 11-point deficit and their hold on the Pac-10 lead slipping away. Jerome Randle gathered his teammates and delivered a strong message.
Randle scored 24 points and California scored the final 15 points of the game to beat Washington State 86-70 Saturday and remain in first place in the Pac-10.
"The message was this is our championship on the line," Randle said. "We came out a little sluggish. I just wanted everyone to know that if we come out the same as we did in the first half, we're going to lose this game. We have to come out with a little more energy. ... We obviously didn't want this one game to come back and haunt us. We just went out and put it all out there."
The Golden Bears (17-8, 9-4) swept a weekend series for just the second time this season to maintain their lead in the conference and move a step closer to their first Pac-10 title in 50 years.
After rolling past Washington 93-81 on Thursday night, Cal had a much more difficult time against the Cougars (15-10, 5-8), falling behind by double digits early before rallying.
Thompson scored 23 of his 28 points in the first half for the Cougars. The high-scoring son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson beat Cal in all sorts of ways in the first half. He hit five 3-pointers, scored on putbacks, drives and post moves. But Christopher provided the answer in the second half, holding Thompson to 2-for-7 shooting from the field and scoreless over the final 12:50.
"It was almost if no one was guarding him," Christopher said of the first-half defense. "He was getting it in transition. It was just uncontested shots. With a shooter like that, you have to contest all his shots or else he'll do what he did in the first half because he's a tremendous scorer."
Cal trailed by 11 points at halftime but scored the first eight points of the second half and then took its first lead since the opening minutes on 3-pointer by Randle midway through the half, part of a 10-0 run. The game stayed close from there with neither team taking more than a three-point lead until less than 3 minutes remained.
Boykin hit a pair of free throws to make it 73-70. Christopher then scored on a layup following a turnover by Thompson. Thompson then shot an air ball on a 3-pointer, and Gutierrez was fouled after the rebound. Washington State coach Ken Bone also got a technical foul, and Cal made 3-of-4 free throws to go up 78-70 with 2:43 to go to put Cal in control.
"It was a great game and unfortunately it got away from us at the end," Bone said. "This is a very good ballclub and there is a reason they are in first place. They got very aggressive, and I thought our guys battled back after those first three minutes of the second half and competed very well until that last three or four minute mark."
Washington State made just one basket in the final 7:50 of the game, missing 11 of 12 shots and turning the ball over six times during that stretch.
"I don't think anyone on the team ran out of energy," said forward DeAngelo Casto, who had five of the Cougars school record-tying 12 blocked shots. "It's tough to look at the scoreboard after fighting such a long fight and seeing that we were down by 10. I think it was demoralizing because that's a tough deficit against the No. 1 team in the conference."
Thompson started fast for the Cougars, scoring eight points during a 17-4 run that put them ahead early. He then scored eight points in a row, capped by a 25-footer for his fifth 3-pointer of the opening half, to give Washington 32-21 lead with less than 8 minutes left in the half.
Randle's fourth 3-pointer of the half got the lead down to four with just over five minutes left, but Cal scored only two more points the rest of the half and trailed 45-34 at the break. The Bears missed nine of their final 10 shots in the half and turned the ball over four times in the closing 5 minutes.
"I thought there was a potential for us to be flat, and we were," coach Mike Montgomery said. "We let Klay Thompson get away from us, and he's too good a player to let do that."