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February 4, 2012
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BERKELEY -- Harper Kamp jammed his fingers. Allen Crabbe rolled his leg. Jorge Gutierrez was taken out for an errant pass and Justin Cobbs was benched for lazy defensive play. Even with all of that, California still torched visiting Arizona State 68-47 at Haas Pavilion in a Saturday matinee to equal last year's win total.
"We hoped it would happen at some point," laughed Bears head coach Mike Montgomery. "We've got seven games left, so we've got a chance to surpass that, and I would be really disappointed if we don't."
Both Kamp and Crabbe left briefly due to a possible sprained ankle and a dislocated finger, respectively, but both re-entered the game following trips to the locker room, and Crabbe wound up scoring a game-high 19 points, reaching double figures for the 20th time this season and the 40th time in his career.
Both Crabbe and Kamp received X-rays after the game.
"Just a little sprain and a dislocated finger that generally you tape up, and maybe you put a couple Aspirin on, and then you'll be fine," Montgomery said.
The Bears (18-6, 8-4 Pac-12) plumbed the depth of the bench early, putting sophomore Emerson Murray in for Gutierrez 3:04 minutes into the contest. Murray overtook junior Brandon Smith as the first guard off the bench, and contributed three points, three assists, one steal and two rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench for Cal, playing aggressive defense.
"That was due, in part, to the fact that they were playing a match-up zone," Montgomery said. "Emerson's been shooting the ball pretty well, and there wasn't the issue of trying to execute in man. We wanted to give him an opportunity to get some minutes. He's been pretty good in situations, so we felt that was valuable for us. Jorge and Harper and Crabbe had been playing huge minutes, so I thought, eventually, it could take its toll. You do that, and all of the sudden, something stupid's going to happen, where a guy gets caught and something happens, and you think, 'Well, jeez, I didn't need to have him in there in that situation.' The more confidence we can get in guys, the better off we're going to be."
Though Arizona State's Kyle Cain poured in a team-high 18 for Arizona State (7-16, 3-8) to go along with a game-high nine rebounds, the rest of the Sun Devils struggled mightily, with the second-leading scorer -- Ruslan Pateev -- contributing eight points on 4-of-4 shooting. As a team, Arizona State shot 38.3 percent, finishing relatively strong after a woeful 30.4-percent first half. The Sun Devils shot 2-of-15 from three-point range, while the Bears sank eight three-pointers -- the most since draining 11 against UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 19.
Crabbe accounted for three, three-pointers, going 3-for-7 from beyond the arc, and finishing with a game-high 19 points. Gutierrez drained the two three-pointers he attempted, and finished with 10 points.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers early on, combining for six over the first 2:25 of the contest. Arizona State finished with 19 turnovers.
While the Bears got out to a hot start shooting, the team from the desert turned positively Arctic. Arizona State missed each of its first five shots, and did not hit a field goal until 5:09 into the game, as Cal went on a 13-1 run, fueled by four straight free throws from Crabbe.
The sophomore wing added to his two freebies on a foul from Carrick Felix thanks to a technical foul called on Arizona State coach Herb Sendek, who saw his team held to just 16 points in the first half.
"The level of play just clearly isn't where it has to be," Sendek said. "We struggle mightily with turnovers and getting into our offense. I think, without belaboring the point, the situation is pretty obvious that we just turned the ball over and are just really struggling mightily with our offense right now."
The Sun Devils' struggles meant that Montgomery could empty the bench and get meaningful playing time for some under-utilized pieces.
Murray's roommate Alex Rossi -- who finally saw game action against Utah after a year and a half of medical travails -- saw seven minutes on the floor, late in the game, sinking his first shot off the bench -- a three -- from the right side.
"I feel good," Rossi said. "I haven't had any hiccups the last couple weeks. Today, when I went out there, I felt athletic. I need to work on my strength, but, I am making good progress and coming along quickly."
Rossi even received a prolonged chanting of his name from The Bench.
"I don't think I deserve the Alex Rossi chants," he smiled. "I get great support from fans, my teammates and coaches. They have faith in me to come out and to do what I do. I need to continue to get healthy and to help my guys out."
In all, 12 Bears saw the floor, with nine recording at least three points.
"I like when we're able to do that," Montgomery said. "The objective is not to win by a bunch of points. That's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to win the game, which I felt comfortable with. When you get kids time in a game situation, you probably find things out that you don't see in practice. Maybe you find a guy who's a little bit more comfortable in that situation, maybe the lights come on, or maybe what concerns you to begin with is confirmed. It's good to be able to do that."
Big Robert Thurman played 20 minutes, scoring six points on 2-of-5 shooting and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line, while pulling down three rebounds and providing a spark off the bench when Kamp jammed his fingers while battling with Felix.
"Robert's been good at catching and finishing, obviously," Montgomery said. "His bulk gives us a different identity. He's just different than [David] Kravish. Kravish is longer, but Robert weighs a lot more. He provides that presence in there. Like anything else, guys are going to have to learn when to throw him the ball and what he can do with it. Sometimes he gets jumbled up with where he is, but he's generally been able to finish pretty well, inside."
Defense was largely the order of the day for the Bears, as they forced 19 Sun Devil turnovers on the afternoon, while cutting back on their own generosity by committing just one turnover after halftime, following eight in the first stanza.
"I was pleased with the first half, defensively," Montgomery said. "I thought that we picked up and put pressure on, and did a nice job that way. Obviously, Arizona State's had a tough time, and they've been a little bit turnover prone, and we thought we could force some. We had 21 points off of turnovers in the first half, which was good. That was key, defensively, and then, you get stuff that you get without having just to play against the match-up."
Despite both Crabbe and Gutierrez pulling down five boards apiece, the out-matched Sun Devils paradoxically won the battle of the boards, out-pacing the Bears by 10 on the glass.
While battling for a long rebound off a three-pointer from Felix, Crabbe got caught between center Jordan Bachynski and 6-foot-8 Kamp. The trio tumbled and rolled, catching Crabbe's foot. Slow to get up, Crabbe was able to get an open three look on a feed from Kamp, but couldn't sink it. Gutierrez grabbed the rebound, and the ball found its way back to Crabbe by way of Cobbs. Spotting up from the left wing, Crabbe hit the jumper to put the Bears on top, 45-22, with 14:45 left, giving Cal its largest lead of the game up to that point.
Cobbs then had a bit of a defensive lapse moments later, when 5-foot-9, 150-pound Max Heller blew through the lane for an uncontested lay-up, causing a bit of consternation from Montgomery, who removed Cobbs in favor of Smith.
Cobbs would not return to the game, but finished with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes.
"It was a brush screen, but I should have let him get there," Cobbs said. "He shouldn't have gotten an easy lay-up like that. That's on me."