Jerome Randle played 34 minutes Wednesday night at Utah, long enough to score a game-high 21 points and drill a long, game-winning 3-point shot with 6.1 seconds left in the Bears’ 72-69 victory. Also long enough to get himself in a bit of a fix at the defensive end.
In a span of 1 minute, 15 seconds early in the second half, Utes guard Tyler Kepkay lit up Randle for eight points, six of them on a pair of 3-pointers after squeezing free off screens.
Mike Montgomery pulled Randle from the game with 16:47 left, giving Nikola Knezevic a chance to slow down Kepkay. He did a decent job, with Kepkay scoring four points over the next 4:16.
Monty wasn’t picking on Randle here. This is something he’d do with virtually anyone in his lineup who was struggling on defense. Randle is perhaps as valuable as any single player on the Cal roster, but he’s never been a great defender.
Playing time is every player’s motivator, so this was simply a message.
“Nobody is so valuable they can fall asleep or get beat on defense,” Monty said. “We’ve got to make it a priority and the only way we’re going to do that is for the guys to understand they’re coming out. He just got lazy.
“Maybe he was frustrated, because they did a good job defensively. But Kepkay came in and just lit it up.”
Randle, who returned to the court with 12:31 left and played the rest of the game, had no gripe with being pulled. And no one on the team has made greater strides in his game than Randle.
But the junior point guard suggested the problem defending Kepkay was partly a matter of communication between himself and teammate Patrick Christopher on screens.
He also said, “My teammates told me to pick it up, so I had to pick it up. He didn’t score again.”
No, he didn’t.
– A reader asked why Omondi Amoke didn’t play Wednesday, and the reason wasn’t because he was ill or injured. He was fine. Game circumstances and matchups kept him on the sidelines. Harper Kamp, whose surgically repaired knee seems to be getting healthy, simply was a better matchup as a defender against Utah’s 7-2 center, Luke Nevill. Amoke has been playing more power forward while Kamp healed, but at 6-7, 215 pounds, he would have been overmatched by the 265-pound Aussie center.
– The Bears dive headlong into final exams now, with no game on the schedule until a week from Saturday against Nevada. Junior Theo Robertson told me he took a final for his Italian class Wednesday morning at the hotel. Robertson, by the way, will graduate this year, but confirmed he will return for his final year of hoops eligibility in 2008-09. No surprise there.
– Two huge statistical turnovers for Cal following their 93-66 loss at Missouri on Sunday. The Bears allowed the Tigers 20 offensive rebounds, but gave up just four to Utah. They coughed up 20 turnovers at Missouri, then only nine vs. the Utes.