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November 23, 2011

Cal falls hard to Mizzou in CBE final



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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- California senior guard Jorge Gutierrez scored just 11 points and fouled out with 11:52 remaining in the No. 20 Bears' Progressive CBE Classic title game loss at the hands of No. 21 Missouri, which rolled to a 92-53 win in front of a largely partisan crowd at the Sprint Center, just a two-hour drive from the Tigers' Columbus, Mo., campus.

"They're aggressive," Gutierrez said. "They play with a lot of intensity, and we felt it."

Missouri used relentless man-to-man, half-court pressure to force a guard-oriented Cal (4-1) into a plethora of early turnovers, and the result was a lot of easy points.

After a free throw by sophomore Allen Crabbe got the Bears within 19-14 with just under 10 minutes left in the first half, the Tigers (5-0) went on a 12-2 spurt in which five players scored. Phil Pressey's bucket with 7:29 left prompted Cal coach Mike Montgomery to call timeout, but Michael Dixon added a 3-pointer moments later off a feed from Marcus Denmon to keep the run going.

Denmon's two free throws made it 31-16 with 5:55 remaining in the half.

The Bears committed three straight turnovers at one point during the stretch, and wound up with 14 of them in the first half, which Missouri turned into 15 points.

The Tigers built a 45-26 lead by halftime and the outcome was never in doubt over the final 20 minutes, with coach Frank Haith pulling his starters with a few minutes left in the game.

Denmon scored 18 points and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Pressey had 13 points and Dixon finished with 11 for Missouri, who won the event for the second time in four appearances.

"The kids are buying in and that's great to see. We understand we have to stay hungry. It's a marathon -- this is coach-speak now -- it's not a sprint," Haith said. "As long as our guys understand the focus, there are things we have to work on, we've got a chance. No doubt about it."

The Tigers wound up shooting 3-of-12 from beyond the arc and got outrebounded 22-11 over the first 20 minutes, yet still managed to build what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.

"It starts with us playing as a team," Denmon said, "everybody passing up the good shot for a better shot, and that's what we did as a unit. It allowed us to have California playing on their heels, and that's something I felt if we did as a team, we would be hard to guard."

Through their first four games, the Bears had grown accustomed to being on the other side of the scoreboard.

They routed Georgia 70-46 in the semifinals Monday night, their fourth consecutive victory by at least 17 points. The win gave them their best start since Montgomery took over four years ago, and was made even more impressive when the Bulldogs knocked off Notre Dame in the third-place game.

Of course, the Tigers also had their way with the Fighting Irish.

Missouri showed over two games in Kansas City that it has made a flawless transition from the fast-paced, "40 minutes of hell" style of former coach Mike Anderson to a style employed by Haith that values scrappy defense, transition baskets and lights-out shooting.

All of which was on display Tuesday night.

"We're working. We're a work in progress," Denmon said. "We continue to do the things we need to do to get better as a team. Everything else will take care of itself."

Things were going so well for the Tigers that when Steve Moore was left open at the top of the key late in the first half, he popped the 3 and hit nothing but net. It was the 6-foot-9 senior center's third career 3-pointer, and it brought a heavily pro-Missouri crowd to its feet in a roar.

The din never died down in the second half.

The Bears never managed to get into a rhythm, settling for a series of off-balance jumpers, awkward shots at the rim and contested 3-pointers -- when they got a shot off at all.

Just as often, it seemed, Cal was coughing up the ball. The 14 turnovers it had in the first half were two shy of its season high, set against Austin Peay last week, and one fewer than it had in the semifinals against Georgia the previous night.

"We really didn't have much going," Montgomery said. "It's as simple as that."

Senior Kim English led the six Tigers who scored in double figures with 19 points.

"This is the best I've felt in my four years, because it's the most selfless team I've played on," English said. "We're all 10 guys, plus three transfers-we're buying into the process every day."

Notebook
Gutierrez and back-up guard Justin Cobbs (10 points) were the only two Cal players to score in double figures.

The Bears had eight steals and six assists as a team, led by four swipes and two assists by Cobbs, as well as two assists from Crabbe, who scored just six points, while leading the team with seven rebounds, followed by five from true freshman David Kravish.

Senior Harper Kamp played 26 minutes, but shot just 1-for-8 from the floor with four rebounds and four points to a team-high five turnovers.

Cal shot a season-low 29.8 percent from the field, and hit just two of nine 3-point attempts.


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