Patrick Christopher resisted the urge to feel too good about Friday night’s 73-55 win over Nevada-Las Vegas at the Thomas and Mack Center.
“This is a big win, but we’ve got to stay humble. We haven’t done anything yet,” the junior guard said. “Preseason last year we might have been in the same shoes.”
He’s right, of course. The Bears, now 5-0 this season, started last year 6-0, then wound up just 17-16.
“That’s a great win against a great team. I’m not going to look past that at all,” Christopher said after handing UNLV just its fourth defeat in its past 46 home games. “But we still aren’t playing our best basketball. We’ve got a long way to go.”
The next test is tonight in the championship game of the Global Sports Classic, and it will be a substantial challenge.
Florida State, 6-0 after beating Cincinnati 58-47 in Friday’s late semifinal, is big.
Make that BIG.
“They’re huge, and they’re athletic and huge. I can’t imagine we’ll see anyone with that size,” Cal assistant coach Jay John said Friday night. “They have height at every position. The challenge is certainly contending with that height and whether we can rebound.”
The Seminoles start a frontline that goes 7-foot-1, 6-9 and 6-9, and they bring players off the bench who are 6-11 and 6-9. They average six blocked shots per game, and against Cincinnati those five players combined for 43 points and 23 rebounds.
Cal, with just one player taller than 6-8 in its starting five, outrebounded UNLV 51-34, and has won the battle on the boards in four of its first five games. This game will test that prowess.
“I think we can defend what they do, defend the first shot,” John said. “But what kind of rebounding job will we be able to do? We’ll be undersized at practically every position.”
That’s because FSU also starts a 6-7 shooting guard and 6-2 senior point guard Toney Douglas has enough bounce that he grabbed 11 rebounds against Cincinnati.
“I think we’re faster than they are. I think we’re a better shooting team,” John said. “Being fast and being a better shooting team is fine, but their height does change some things. Their bodies are going to be longer to close out shots.”
ENERGY INDEX: First-year coach Mike Montgomery worries that fatigue can be as big an issue tonight as size. In particular, he’s aware that guards Jerome Randle and Christopher played 38 and 37 minutes, respectively, against Vegas.
“I’ve got to get some other people some time, there’s no question,” Monty said. “I imagine Jerome will be tired. What happens when you get tired is you start making mental mistakes.
“We’ll need to play more people, particularly early. That’s as hard as we’ve played.”
STILL HOT FROM DEEP: Cal, which entered the UNLV game leading the nation in 3-point accuracy, was 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. The Bears improved to 60.7 percent (37-for-61).
Randle was 4-for-5 against UNLV and now stands at 72.7 percent (16-for-22). Ridiculous.
SUPER SUBS: Cal’s bench contributed 13 points and 15 rebounds to the win over UNLV. Freshman guard Jorge Gutierrez had a career-best 10 points along with five rebounds and redshirt freshman forward Omondi Amoke had eight rebounds and three points in eight minutes. Center Max Zhang blocked three shots and leads the team with eight in just 35 minutes.
“Omondi’s intensity meant a lot to us, as well as Jorge. And Max came in and altered some shots,” Christopher said. “It’s key for us to have players like that.”
MONTY MAKING HISTORY: By winning their first five games, the Bears have helped Montgomery equal the best start by a first-year Cal coach in 92 years. Rene Herrerias also began 5-0 in 1960-61, but the only coach with a longer win streak to open his Cal career was Ben Cherrington, who folded four victories over YMCA clubs and a win over Berkeley High into an 11-0 start in 1916-17.
AND MORE: Cal has won its first five games of the season by at least 10 points each for the first time since 1926-27, when the Bears went 14-0 and won their first six by 15 points or more.
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas.
TV: None. RADIO: 1550 AM.
NOTES: Cal (5-0) and Florida State (6-0) are meeting for the first time . . . The Bears have four players who are yet to miss from 3-point range. Walk-on Eddie Miller is 3-for-3, and Jamal Boykin, Gutierrez and Nikola Knezevic all have buried their only attempt from beyond the arc . . . FSU senior guard Toney Douglas, who began his career at Auburn, has scored at least 16 points in five of the team’s six games, including 30 vs. Coastal Carolina, when he was 6-for-9 from 3-point distance . . . FSU has won its first six games of the season for the first time in five years . . . Freshman Chris Singleton made his FSU debut with 12 points and 17 rebounds against Jacksonville.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PF Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr., 11.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg
SF Theo Robertson, 6-5, Jr., 12.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg
C Jordan Wilkes, 7-0, Jr., 5.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
SG Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr., 12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
PG Jerome Randle, 5-10, Jr., 19.4 ppg, 5.2 apg
PF Chris Singleton, 6-9, Fr., 10.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg
SF Ryan Reid, 6-9, Sr., 9.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg
C Solomon Alabi, 7-1, Fr., 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
SG Jordan DeMercy, 6-7, So., 4.2 ppg, 2.7 apg
PG Toney Douglas, 6-2, Sr., 17.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg