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January 17, 2011

Bears fall to Huskies by 21

BERKELEY -- Two days of rest following a workmanlike overtime effort in a grueling win over Washington State just wasn't enough for the Cal basketball team on Sunday, as Washington overmatched the Bears on Sunday in a 92-71 route at Haas Pavilion.

"If they play that good, then they're pretty good," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. "They were very good tonight. Washington was very good. They made shots, they played extremely hard. They were very good and I didn't think we were at our best, and that's a bad combination for us."

Down low, the Huskies were too big for the Bears, dominating the rebound battle by a count of 43-27. On the perimeter, Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 27 points and shot a career-high nine three-pointers -- though he made only three -- while the rest the Washington lineup hoisted up 20 attempts from beyond the arc, making 10.

"The fact of the matter is that Isaiah Thomas just had his way," Montgomery said. "He was really good, he gained confidence early on, we got a couple fouls trying to double up on him early on ball screens. He got penetration almost any time he wanted to, and when he got penetration, we would rotate over, and we either didn't V-back or if we did, he'd throw back to a shooter and the shooters seemed like they made it."

Cal (9-8, 2-3 in the Pac-10) kept it close early, even leading by five points early in the first half, but as the minutes piled up, it became apparent that the Huskies were just too much.

"I think they got woken up on Thursday," Montgomery said. "They got caught off guard and didn't play like they were capable of, so they came in here full of it, and we got back on our heels. We played a very good basketball team that played their best and I don't think we played our best."

Washington played hungry and angry following an embarrassing 58-56 loss to Stanford last Thursday in which the Huskies held an 11-point lead with 11 minutes to play at Maples Pavilion.

"I thought we came into the arena with a workmanlike attitude and great focus," said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar. "I know we were disappointed in the outcome against Stanford, and I think our guys couldn't wait to play another game."

Thomas abused sophomore point guard Brandon Smith, shaking him off the dribble and finding passing lanes at will. To go along with his game-high 27, Thomas also notched 13 assists, one shy of Cal's team total.

"It was probably the best performance I have seen him have as a Husky," Romar said. "He was the band conductor orchestrating that game for all of the 35 minutes he was in there. He was really good. He's been playing like this since we started conference games."

"He had an awesome game," Smith said. "You've got to give it to him and his team. They wanted it more than we did tonight, and it showed in the score. I think, defensively, we had some struggles communicating and getting back on defense. I don't think it was the pace. I don't think they were super-quick. We just weren't hedged on screens and we weren't helping our teammates out on D. Could be a lot of reasons. I think, tonight, we just weren't all on the same page. It was just one of those nights, and we can't have anymore nights like this in this league."

Thomas' favorite targets were more than receptive to the Tacoma native's giving spirit. Justin Holiday had himself a career night, scoring 23 points on 9-of-14 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point land while adding three assists, a steal and two boards.

"We tried the box-and-one, we tried the zone, we just didn't seem to be on the same page," Montgomery said. "We went back to the zone some -- which we've done -- and we had guys not running zone. We had guys not running back the way they were supposed to run. We tried the box-and-one trying to take Thomas out of it, and we had guys running across, they cross-screened it and laid it up. We were not, I don't think, as sharp mentally as we needed to be. They were extremely confident, they're aggressive, they're very long, they're very athletic and a good basketball team, and we just didn't seem to be able to adjust to that."

In fact, Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning (22 points) and Holiday alone outscored Cal, 72-71. Bryan-Amaning's 11 boards also netted him his sixth double-double of the year.

"Bryan-Amaning has made huge strides since he was a freshman," Montgomery said. "He's a really good player now, and you're talking about a junior that's gotten a whole lot better. They've got a veteran ballclub and guys tend to get stronger. We have a lot of guys playing a lot of minutes, which certainly has to be a little bit of a factor, but I just think mentally -- as much as anything else -- we just weren't engaged to do the things that we need to do to win."

The Huskies won the battle of the boards, clogged the middle and effectively stifled any scoring options that the Bears had. The Huskies forced true freshman Allen Crabbe into some wild shots after he burned them for 10 points in the first 10 minutes of the game, including Cal's first seven. On the night, Crabbe managed 16 points on 4-of-10 shooting, 1-of-4 from beyond the arc and 7-of-8 from the line.

"If you establish an inside game, we were able to get the ball inside, but we had a hard time converting down there, and (if we're not converting) you're not going to get any help from Allen's guy," Montgomery said. "Basketball's a team game, and if they take one guy then the other four people are going to have different opportunities."

After falling behind by five to start the game, Washington went on a 19-6 run.

"It all started with the fact that we came down and scored the ball, and then four seconds later, they laid it up, and I think that they got a lot of confidence out of that," Montgomery said. "We didn't play bad offensively, early on, but we were having a hard time in transition, getting back."

Washington also took away center Markhuri Sanders-Frison, routinely suffocating both him and Harper Kamp beneath double- and triple-teams.

"We had the opportunity to be right there at the top of the league with a win here tonight, and we've got to bring it at home," said a despondent Kamp. "We have to bring more energy and we've got to get it going, somehow. Everyone's got to be on the same page. I don't know what it was, tonight, why we weren't all on the same page, defensively, but we just weren't all there. Whatever they did, worked, and we kind of let them have that."

Kamp was able to manage 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting, but he went an uncharacteristic 2-of-4 from the free-throw line. In fact, Cal as a whole struggled from the charity stripe. Though the Bears drew plenty of personal foul calls (26), when it came time to capitalize, they shot 17-of-30 (56.7 percent).

"Well, we've talked about that, and I don't know if, in this particular situation, that it was as critical as it has been in other situations," Montgomery said. "You're giving up 13 points. At some point, do you get to where you're within six or seven, where a stop, psychologically, might really make a big difference for you? When you're down 18 or 20, we just missed all kinds of free throws when we ran good offense, and it's to their advantage -- with their depth -- when they foul and we miss free throws, we get nothing. Then, they go down and we've got to defend against a team that's shooting lights-out."

Sanders-Frison was particularly horrid, making just 2-of-7 free throws. Washington, on the other hand, hit 11-of-15 from the line (73.3 percent). In fact, the Huskies out-shot the Bears in every capacity. Washington hit 34-of-65 from the field (52.3 percent) and 13-of-29 from three-point range (44.8 percent).

"It didn't seem to me that we were ourselves," Montgomery said. "Once we got out of sorts, in terms of playing with intensity and with communication out there, we really just had a hard time."

Smith echoed his head coach's sentiments.

"Washington is good, but I don't think that they're 21 points better than us," Smith said. "I think we just didn't come out ready to play tonight. They came out really hungry in their tempo, their energy, they really brought it."

Washington scored the last point it needed with 12:08 left in the game, and coasted to a win in front of a rowdy crowd of 8,649 which included Cal football great Jahvid Best.

"If you look at statistics, which only tell part of the story, the turnover, second-chance and fast break (points) were 41-15. Those are three things you stress: no fast-break stuff, no points off turnovers and no second chance block-offs. 41. You're not going to win many games when you're giving up 41 points in those circumstances. You've got to make them play against half-court defense. They were playing well against half-court defense without giving them those kinds of things."

Notebook
• Crabbe reached double figures in scoring for the ninth time this season. He has scored at least 10 points in each of his last four games, and in six of his last seven.

"Allen had some shots where I thought he got tired," Montgomery said. "I thought that we looked a bit tired, just from the standpoint of playing an overtime game, having guys playing 40 or more minutes, and so forth, but he's fine. He was 4-for-10, he scored 16 points and had six rebounds, so I don't know what more you could ask from him."

• With his 20 points tonight, Kamp has now scored at least 20 points three times this year. It was his first 20-plus night since he had an even 20 against Southern Mississippi on Dec. 12. Over his past six games, Kamp has averaged 15.8 points, including a 19-point game against Hartford and an 18-point game against Washington State. During that stretch, he is shooting 36-of-64 from the field (56.3 percent).

Richard Solomon continued to get a better handle on his physical game against the Huskies. He battled hard down low for rebounds, took several fouls and fared well against Washington's bigs. Solomon finished with a career-high 14 points, making all five of his field-goal attempts and went 4-of-8 from the free-throw line.

• The 92 points surrendered to the Huskies was the most that the Bears have given up this season. The Cardinal scored 82 points on Jan. 2 in Palo Alto.

"These guys have to play together. They have to help each other out. I didn't think, defensively, that we were very good at helping each other," Montgomery said. "I thought that we got sideways, and it might have been from the fact that we're not making the shots that we were getting on offense. We had pretty good looks. We weren't making them, and then we got a little frustrated with that and then they quit trying to play at the other end of the floor, and we can't do that. We're going to have nights where we don't do things well. We still scored 71 points, and for us, that's decent, but we gave up 92, and you're not going to beat anybody when you give up 92."

• Washington drained more three-pointers than any Cal opponent this year with 13 makes from beyond the arc.

• True freshman Emerson Murray played a career-high 16 minutes on the night - 10 in the first half - and battled hard for loose balls, rivaling the tenacity of junior Jorge Gutierrez on the defensive end. He was particularly impressive when faced with guarding Thomas, but fared no better than any of the other defenders against the Huskies' ace.

"They didn't have to make all the shots they made," Montgomery said. "We had situations on missed free throws where we couldn't get the rebounds when we were inside, or a loose-ball situation -- which is something that's been a little bit of a dilemma for us -- where we fight for the loose ball but we don't get it, and then we're not reacting back and they end up getting the basket where we should have been able to run."

With 8:18 left in the first half, Murray drove the right baseline, went flying into the air, and hit an impossible lay-up while being knocked nearly end-over-end, drawing the foul from Aziz N'Diaye. Though Murray missed his free-throw attempt, he charged hard through the lane and got his own board, nearly hitting the follow-up shot as well. His game is clearly evolving to the point where his natural athleticism can take over, but when he was set up for several open threes, he airballed two.

• The Bears' 21-point loss was Cal's biggest defeat since falling 95-73 to Syracuse in New York on Nov. 19, 2009.


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