Cal holds off Oregon State
BERKELEY – California hardly looked like one of the Pac-10’s top teams. What mattered was the Golden Bears held onto their spot in first place, by the narrowest of margins.
Jerome Randle had 14 points and five assists and Cal held off a late rally to maintain its position in the Pac-10 standings with an unimpressive 65-61 victory over Oregon State on Saturday.
“Bottom line is we’ve got to be tougher,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We did what we needed to do. We got a 15-point lead. It’s still a win and we’ll take the two wins this week and get on about our business.”
Jamal Boykin added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Theo Robertson scored five straight during Cal’s 11-4 spurt to open the second half and finished with 14. The Golden Bears (13-6, 5-2) headed into Saturday tied for the Pac-10 lead with Arizona State. The Sun Devils were set to host rival Arizona later Saturday.
Calvin Haynes scored 25 points and freshman Jared Cunningham scored a season-best 18 for the Beavers (8-11, 2-5), who nearly came back from a 15-point deficit late but ultimately lost for the sixth time in eight games. Oregon State coach Craig Robinson shook up his starting lineup with two changes after an ugly loss at Stanford two days earlier.
“We have to figure out what we are doing as coaches and staff members to get them to play like this all of the time,” Robinson said. “It was nice to see that we could come back after a flat Thursday and play really well early on Saturday.”
Cunningham, who had his share of fans from his nearby hometown of San Leandro, earned his first Pac-10 start and sixth overall in place of Josh Tarver, and Kevin McShane started for Daniel Deane. Cunningham and McShane scored Oregon State’s first two baskets.
Oregon State had a players-only team meeting Friday, plus a 6:45 a.m. practice.
“We just dug down and fought hard to come back,” Cunningham said. “The effort wasn’t there (Thursday). Coach said we’ve got to make up our minds to play hard every day.”
Cunningham regularly posted up the shorter Randle, who struggled offensively and committed seven turnovers.
Randle acknowledged he made some “dumb passes.” Montgomery let him have it, too.
“He’s better than that, and I want him to be better than that,” Montgomery said of his senior point guard. “If he’s going to handle the ball he’s got to take care of it.”
Both teams started slowly after the 11 a.m. tip-off at Haas Pavilion.
Seth Tarver’s basket with 1:48 to play got Oregon State within 58-55 after the Beavers trailed by 15 with 6:55 to play. But Robertson quickly knocked down a 3 with a hand in his face on the other end. Randle converted two free throws with 31.2 seconds on the clock, then Haynes’ jumper for the Beavers made it a two-point game with 11.4 seconds left.
Robertson hit two free throws with 10.1 to go.
“We’re in this thing. We’re going to be tied for first heading into Arizona,” Montgomery said. “If we’re going to make a run at it, we’re going to have to get better, get stronger, get tougher.”
Second-leading scorer Patrick Christopher was held to eight points for Cal after getting all 21 of his points in the first half of Thursday night’s 89-57 rout of Oregon.
Montgomery was pleased with how his team bounced back from a tough 15-point loss last weekend at Washington by burying the Ducks early. Cal was picked to win the Pac-10 after placing third last season.
Jorge Gutierrez made his highly anticipated return for Cal with 8:35 left in the first half, entering to cheers in his first game back after missing the last five with a sprained right knee. Gutierrez, a top reserve, landed awkwardly on his surgically repaired knee with 7:20 remaining in the first half of a 92-66 victory over rival Stanford in the team’s conference opener Jan. 2.
Rebounding has become a key statistic for the Bears, and they were even on the boards at 32. Cal also shot just 4-for-18 from 3-point range.
Oregon State won both meetings last season and snapped Cal’s seven-game winning streak in the series. But Cal made enough big plays to hold off the Beavers in this one. Oregon State lost 59-35 at Stanford on Thursday and was held to a season-low point total, had an offensive drought of nearly nine minutes in the second half and never found a rhythm.
“They’ve given us problems but we’ll take a win any way we can get it,” Robertson said. “But we’re not happy with how we played.”
The Beavers went nearly five minutes without a field goal in the second half Saturday before Haynes knocked down his team’s first 3-pointer of the day with 8:49 remaining. Oregon State missed its first eight tries from long range.
The Beavers stayed close in the first half by converting 8 of 11 free throws on the way to a 28-all tie at the break.
Cal began 7 of 13 but didn’t get much early from its top players – even after the starters rested for much of the second half in Thursday night’s blowout. Randle was 1-for-7 and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
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