Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher weren’t exactly in mid-season form for Monday’s season opener against Murray State in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament. How could they be? It’s still two weeks away from Thanksgiving.
After the Bears’ 75-70 victory, coach Mike Montgomery warned that opponents will do their best all season to take away Cal’s celebrated senior guards. It’s not like they were secret weapons a year ago, but they catapulted into this season on magazine covers and online best-of lists.
“All of a sudden these guys are two all-conference picks,” Montgomery said. “People know about them. Like any team does, you’re going to go after other teams best players and do everything you can to take them out and make everyone else beat you.”
Randle finished with 18 points and Christopher had 13 against the Racers. But neither scored in the game’s first 13 minutes as the Bears struggled early to adjust to Murray State’s aggressive defensive tactics.
“There’s a lot of pressure on Jerome and Patrick,” said Montgomery, who doesn’t expect either player to be dramatically better than a year ago. “If they can be exactly as good as last year, that will be fine. They have to let the game come to them.”
Randle, one of the Pac-10’s most-improved players last season, never developed a rhythm against Murray State. His coach isn’t worried.
“Jerome is trying to do everything I ask him to do,” Montgomery said. “You feel for the kid. Part of his game is to do unorthodox things offensively. I thought a couple times he got into the paint and his thought process was a little off.”
DETROIT SCOUT: The Titans were just 7-23 a year ago, and finished last in the Horizon League at 2-16. But they have an infusion of new talent, led by former Richmond HS star Eli Holman, who will make his debut with the team tonight after sitting out last season as a transfer from Indiana. The 6-foot-10 Holman, who was selected as the top newcomer in the Horizon League by The Sporting News, figures to present a challenge to Cal center Markhuri Sanders-Frison, who stands a shade under 6-8. Holman expects to have about 50 family members and friends at tonight’s game. Detroit’s top returning player is senior small forward Thomas Kennedy, who averaged 11.6 ppg a year ago and has scored at a 20.5 clip through two exhibition games. Also back is power forward Xavier Keeling, who averaged 12.4 ppg through seven games last season before suffering a season-ending foot injury.
REMEMBER THE TITANS: Detroit has some substantial basketball history. Dick Vitale coached the Titans for four seasons, including 1976-77, when the club went 25-4. The 1999 team upset fifth-seeded UCLA 56-53 in the NCAA Tournament. And Titans alums include former NBA standouts Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood.
IN QUOTES: “It’s a pleasure to watch him play defense. He’s smart. He sees things before anyone else does. He got into foul trouble, but how to you tell him not to be aggressive?” — Cal coach Mike Montgomery on guard Jorge Gutierrez after Monday’s win over Murray State.
ETC: Cal and Detroit have met just once, with the Bears taking a 32-28 victory back in 1937-38 . . . The Titans are 6-4 all-time vs. the Pac-10 . . . Detroit is just 2-13 in opening games on the road since 1935 . . . The Titans have lost 14 straight games to ranked teams and have not defeated a ranked opponent in a true road game since knocking off No. 8 Marquette in 1979 . . . Cal will face Syracuse next Thursday at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals, regardless of how tonight’s game goes.
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 12.0 5.0
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-8 Jr. 6.0 7.0
SF Theo Robertson 6-5 Sr. 14.0 6.0
SG Patrick Chrstopher 6-5 Sr. 13.0 2.0
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 18.0 4.0*
SG Jorge Gutierrez 6-2 So. 7.0 3.0
F Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 3.0 3.0
PG Brandon Smith 5-11 Fr. 2.0 0.0
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Xavier Keeling 6-7 Jr. 7.0 3.5
C Eli Holman 6-10 So. 16.0 6.0
SF Thomas Kennedy 6-7 Sr. 20.5 8.5
SG Chase Simon 6-5 So. 17.5 7.5
PG Woody Payne 5-11 Sr. 0.0 9.0*
SG Eulis Stephens 6-5 Sr. 4.0 4.0
SG Lamar Lee 6-0 Jr. 9.5 3.5
* – Assists
Note: Detroit stats from two exhibition games.