It was the Bears’ post-game mantra Thursday after losing at USC, and coach Mike Montgomery repeated the words Friday following a 2-hour practice session at Pauley Pavilion.
“Try to stay positive,” he said on the eve of today’s game against UCLA.
Staying upbeat couldn’t have been easy for the Bears after losing 63-60 to the Trojans in a game where they led 30-17, then surrendered an incomprehensible 25-0 run that spanned more than 10 1/2 minutes over the two halves.
“Anytime you lose, it’s disappointing. I suppose anybody who’s with us or behind us is disappointed, too,” Montgomery said. “This notion that we’re appreciably better than anybody is just obviously not the case. We lost three games, basically, in the last minute. If we just make plays, or get stops . . . ”
Among a variety of problems against USC, the Bears got beat up on the boards.
“Our three big guys had two rebounds,” Montgomery said, referring to the threesome of Jamal Boykin (1 rebound), Markhuri Sanders-Frison (1) and Max Zhang (0). “We know we’ve got issues with bigs. We’re not big. We acknowledge that, but gosh we’ve got to do a better job with that.”
Among other things.
“For us to have a chance to win this thing, we’re going to have to compete tooth and nail every single game,” he said. “We can’t go in thinking we’re better than somebody, because the league’s just not structured that way.
“It’s hard, there’s nothing free out there, there’s no gimmees. We’re giving away games that a bucket here, a play there, a stop here, a loose ball there, we could win.”
Montgomery said he isn’t sure what his players’ thought process is when they take a lead on opponents. “I can’t tell you what happens psychologically, what’s in their mind, when we play well and get up. I don’t know if all of a sudden they think, `Well, we’ve got this.’ ”
But when they fell behind, the Bears became passive, he said.
“Jerome (Randle) got upset – I got into him pretty good at one timeout,” Montgomery said. “We were just not competing, allowing them to have their way with us. Jerome went out – and granted he made shots, which makes it look a lot better – but Theo (obrertson) got on the floor after a loose ball, Jamal (Boykin) got more aggressive, Jorge(Gutierrez) was a factor. We started playing like we have to play.”
UCLA SCOUT: Two freshmen forwards have helped turn around UCLA’s season after a 4-7 non-conference start. Tyler Honeycutt, who missed practice early with an assortment of injuries, has averaged 10.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg over the past five games. Reeves Nelson, who played high school ball with Cal sophomore D.J. Seeley, is averaging 15.6 ppg and 7.4 rpg over the same five-game span, although he’s currently coming off the bench.
“Reeves Nelson has come on and is a very solid inside presence for them,” Montgomery said. “Honeycutt was hurt early and now he’s one of the better offensive rebounders in the league. They’ve got length with him in there.”
UCLA coach Ben Howland, a devotee of man-to-man defense, has gone almost exclusively to the zone, dating back to early in the conference season, and it’s worked well. Cal shot just 2-for-18 from the 3-point line against it last month. “The zone’s been better for them,” Montgomery said. “They’re becoming confident and better in it. I think they’ve established roles in terms of who does what.”
SANDERS-FRISON UPDATE: Although his 14 minutes on the floor produced no points, just one rebound and four fouls, the return of junior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison after missing two games with a back injury provided the Bears with a lift, Montgomery said.
“I think Markhuri helped us just because he is aggressive, physical, talks, gives you some energy out there,” he said. “We’d love to get him back to where he could give us more minutes, try to get him in shape.”
THE SERIES: UCLA beat Cal 76-75 in overtime in Berkeley last month when senior Michael Roll hit a last-second shot. The Bruins have won six straight in the series and own a 37-7 record against Cal in games played at Pauley Pavilion. Overall, UCLA leads the series 131-95.
MISCELLANY: Cal was coming off a loss at USC in its 22nd game last year, too, but was two games better overall at 16-6. The Bears were just 5-4 in the Pac-10 at that point, then ran off four straight wins . . . Jerome Randle, with his school-record 219 career 3-pointers, is still 23 shy of breaking into the top-10 in Pac-10 history. That spot belongs to Oregon’s James Davis (2001-04) with 242. The conference record is 342 by Arizona’s Salim Stoudamire (2002-05) . . . Patrick Christopher, with 1,510 career points, became the ninth Cal player to to top the 1,500 plateau.
TIPOFF: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles
CAL (14-8, 6-4)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Theo Robertson 6-6 Sr. 13.8 4.7
PF Jamal Boykin 6-8 Sr. 11.2 6.2
PF Omondi Amoke 6-7 So. 5.3 5.3
SG Patrick Christopher 6-5 Sr. 16.2 5.7
PG Jerome Randle 5-10 Sr. 19.3 4.7*
G Jorge Gutierrez 6-3 So. 5.0 3.1
C Markhuri Sanders-Frison 6-7 Jr. 3.2 3.4
C Max Zhang 7-2 So. 3.6 2.8
UCLA (11-11, 6-4)
Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SF Tyler Honeycutt 6-7 Fr. 6.2 6.4
PF Nikola Dragovic 6-9 Sr. 11.7 5.0
PF James Keefe 6-8 Sr. 2.1 2.8
SG Michael Roll 6-5 Sr. 13.2 3.7*
PG Malcolm Lee 6-4 So. 12 5 3.6*
F Reeves Nelson 6-8 Fr. 11.4 6.0
G Jerime Anderson 6-2 So. 5.9 3.8*
* – Assists