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January 13, 2012
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BERKELEY -- For the first time this season, the California men's basketball team found a way to defend, without the benefit of an offensive groove. In fact, saying that the Bears weren't in a groove would be a vast understatement.
Leading scorer Jorge Gutierrez -- who came in to the game shooting a stout 50.9 percent from the field -- shot a dreadful 2-for-17 against Pac-12 front-runner Colorado, as Cal as a whole shot 20-for-57 (35.1 percent). Yet, thanks to a well-timed 14-point outburst from senior power forward Harper Kamp, the Bears still managed to pull out a win against the Buffaloes, overcoming a 29-22 halftime deficit to emerge with a 57-50 victory.
"We sure didn't play well offensively, but defense kept us in," said head coach Mike Montgomery. "I feel good about that, because we didn't give in, even though, offensively, we had our struggles. To play that poorly offensively and still win, you've got to feel pretty lucky."
Part of the Bears' struggles were due to intense man defense by the Buffaloes, which held Cal (14-1, 4-1 Pac-12) to 31.0 percent shooting in the first half. Colorado (11-5, 3-1) owned the Bears on the boards all night, pulling down 40 boards to Cal's 36.
"You've got to give all the credit in the world to Colorado," Montgomery said. "They're a good basketball team that was solid, a solid basketball team. They don't make a lot of mistakes. They're veteran, they're physical, they're a good team."
The Bears hit two of their first nine shots, with Gutierrez missing not hitting his first field goal until 19:15 into the first half.
"We knew that they were going to be good, but I think they got into our heads a little bit, and I think we allowed them to," Montgomery said. "We got frustrated and started shooting the ball early, and, fortunately, we were able to defend a little bit."
Kamp's 14 points were the most by the senior power forward since a 16-point outing against Georgia on Nov. 21, 2011, and he had to be productive, with the trio of Allen Crabbe, Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs combining for 26 points -- their lowest combined total in a game this season. Cal's 22 points at the half tied for the lowest one-half output in a game this season, after the Bears scored 22 in the second half of a 53-49 win over USC on Dec. 29.
"It was just a matter of me going out there with just a little bit more confidence, and having some confidence in my jumper," Kamp said. "Thanks to my teammates - guys like Rich [Solomon] - they were helping me out before the game, in my ear, reminding me to have fun with my game. That was my goal tonight: to go out and try and help my teammates any way that I could."
Kamp has not scored in double figures since Dec. 31 against UCLA, and only took a total of eight shots combined over the past two games against Oregon State and Oregon.
"I've been having my struggles here and there," Kamp said. "I'm still trying to help the team. Offensively, I guess, you could say I've been having some struggles, but I've just had to focus and keep helping the team any way I can, and just enjoying myself. We don't have an unlimited amount of games left, so I'm just trying to have fun."
Kamp took some lumps on Thursday night. With 13:58 left in the game, Kamp took a hard charge from Austin Dufault, and landed hard on his lower back. Though slow to get up, Kamp recovered quickly, notching an assist on a Crabbe three which brought the score to 35-33, Colorado.
"It's my lower back," Kamp said. "I landed on it a few times, already, this season, so it's not a major problem, just a little bruise."
Crabbe was particularly frustrated by the play of 6-foot-5 senior guard Carlon Brown, who not only made life difficult for the sophomore scorer, but also pulled down five boards and dished out four assists while tallying a block and a steal.
"He wasn't letting him catch the ball," Montgomery said. "He's a fifth-year senior, he's an athlete, he's from southern California, he was probably up to the challenge. I thought we stood a little bit, and allowed ourselves to be taken out. The truth of the matter is, we didn't screen anybody. You don't screen anybody, you're easy to guard, and we just started running to spots, and they just beat us to spots and overplay everything, so had the one backdoor, we missed it. That's on us. We've got to get better offensively."
Kamp shot 6-of-12 from the floor and pulled down eight boards, while true freshman David Kravish went 3-of-5 with seven boards and a game-high three blocks to help on the defensive effort.
The win was Cal's 12th straight at Haas Pavilion, where the Bears are undefeated this season. The last time Cal won a dozen in a row in Berkeley was at the start of the 2002-03 season.
After trailing at the half at home for the first time this season, the Bears steadily crawled back into contention with a 20-8 run to start the second half, fueled by seven points and three boards Kamp.
"Harper gives us everything," Cobbs said. "He's a beast on the boards for his size, he gets after it on defense, he's doing the little things, takes charges. Allen gets a lot of the praise because he takes shots, but Harper's the man that's getting them open, and Jorge, setting screens, he's doing the little things that people don't normally see, so he wasn't really getting the pub that he deserves, but tonight he did what he had to do, and we needed that, tonight."
As bad as Cal shot the ball, Colorado was even worse. The Buffaloes finished the game with a 15-for-47 mark from the field (31.9 percent) and had 17 turnovers -- nine more than the Bears. Colorado was the 10th opponent Cal has held under 40 percent shooting this year.
"Harper played well, and thank goodness," Montgomery said. "We got the ball to him some, he made some key shots late, he switched the screen late -- which, we made that adjustment. Somebody had to play. Somebody had to score the ball, or we were going to be in deep trouble. That's the kind of game, the kind of thing we expect from him. That's what we need from him."
Nine of Colorado's turnovers happened in the second half, while Cal took care of the rock for the most part, allowing just two turnovers after the break as its two best scorers continued to be ice cold.
While Gutierrez struggled against himself all night, Crabbe was tentative and unsure, shooting 2-for-9 from the field.
"They're just disciplined," Kamp said. "They're in pretty good position all the time, and we knew that going in. We saw them on film. They have good defensive principles, and they stuck to that and they played hard."
Crabbe's high school teammate Richard Solomon was limited to just 12 minutes and did not start, but when he was in the game, he made a big difference, shooting 2-of-3 from the floor, hitting two free throws with just over five minutes left, pulling down two boards and swiping two steals. Two of Solomon's points came on a slam dunk with just over two minutes left in the game on a feed from Cobbs to give the Bears a big 51-47 lead.
After a three by Dufault -- who shot 5-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three primarily off of ball screens -- brought the Buffs within one point, the struggling Gutierrez took the ball down deep under the hoop, but couldn't find anything. Gutierrez lobbed the ball up to the free-throw line to Crabbe, who could not get the ball into space, so he dished to Kamp in the low block, who hit the up-and-under to make it 53-50 Cal with 49.7 seconds remaining, bringing Haas Pavilion to its feet.
"He shot the ball well tonight," Kamp said of Dufault. "We knew he was a good shooter. I think, maybe, we didn't give him enough credit. Maybe we just didn't do quite as good a job as we'd wanted, stopping the ball on those screens, and get back to him, as a shooter, but I think we adjusted pretty well towards the end of the game, did a good job of getting some stops when we needed them, and got the win."
After Crabbe swiped one of the Bears' eight steals on the night at the expense of Dufault -- who had the second-highest scoring game of his career with 19 points -- the sophomore wing passed up to Cobbs, who was fouled by Colorado guard Nate Tomlinson. Cobbs drained the first of two free throws with 39.2 seconds left, but missed the second. Crabbe came flying in for a rebound, and drew the foul from Askia Booker. Two drained foul shots later, the Bears had iced the win.