More from Cal’s historic victory over Arizona State . . .
— The final score today: 62-46. The final score 50 years ago today when Cal last clinched a conference title: 62-47 (over Oregon State). Means nothing, but kinda cool.
— The biggest in-game move made by Mike Montgomery today was to quit doubling down on ASU center Eric Boateng in the second half. The change allowed the Bears to play tighter against ASU’s shooters. The result: the Sun Devils shot 51.9 percent in the first half, 26.9 percent in the second half. ASU was 1-for-10 from the 3-point line after halftime.
— That strategy only worked because senior Jamal Boykin was able to shut down his ex-Duke teammate one-on-one. Boateng, who scored 24 points on 11-for-11 shooting at Stanford two nights earlier, did not attempt a shot in 12 minutes in the second half. “Jamal and Boateng were like two Brahma bulls,” Montgomery said “I thought Jamal was great, the energy he gave us.”
— As usual, Jorge Gutierrez’s stats don’t tell the story. He played 20 minutes, had six points and two rebounds and it felt like he took over the games at times in the second half. “He just started guarding everybody,” Montgomery said.
— He did more than that. His driving dunk with 11:38 left helped spark the offense and his aggressive swat of Boateng, knocking the 6-foot-10 center to the floor after Robertson already had fouled him, sent a clear message.
— A couple players labeled Gutierrez and sophomore forward Omondi Amoke the team’s “X-factors.” Amoke had six points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. “Omondi gave us energy and that’s what he does,” Montgomery said. He gave us a lot of second-chance opportunities.” One he probably didn’t get credit for was a tip of a missed shot by Christopher, keeping alive the ball, which Robertson grabbed and turned into a three-point play for Cal’s first double-digit game of the day, 52-42, with 8:40 left.
— Patrick Christopher was everywhere, too. Had 14 points, five rebounds and the primary responsility defending ASU’s Ty Abbott. The junior guard, who’s had games of 20, 25 and 30 points against Cal, shot 4-for-13 and finished with eight points — his lowest-scoring game since Jan. 2. “We ask a lot of Patrick,” Monty said. “He did a great job on Abbott.”
— Christopher became the eighth Cal player to reach 1,600 career points. His total of 1,610 ranks No. 7 all-time. He also tied Keith Smith’s record of 128 games played. Theo Robertson moved to 19th on the career list with 1,225 points.
— Cal won for the first time in three games this season when leading scorer Jerome Randle was held to single digits. The senior guard scored just seven points, but had four assists and only two turnovers in 39 minutes.
— The five Cal seniors now have combined for 5,604 career points.
— I had suggested in this space Friday that Cal would wait to cut down the nets until it owned the title outright. But I was wrong, and it seemed appropriate when, one-by-one, the Bears climbed the ladder and took the net down in front of their long-suffering fans.
— Senior reserve Nikola Knezevic, who played the final minute of the game, came to the interview room with his four classmates, and excited about being part of the big day. “I’m really proud of myself for being part of this group and coming here,” the native of Belgrade, Serbia said. “I have to thank my family. They pushed me to come to Berkeley. I believe people in the Bay Area believe in us, and we also believe in ourselves. I’m really happy.”
— The athletic department and AD Sandy Barbour got high marks from the players, who were caught off guard but thrilled by the post-game preparations. Asked about the confetti and the atmosphere, Christopher said, “It shocked me. They were prepared for this thing. We have (Pac-10 championship) T-shirts and everything . Two thumbs up for that.”
— The players all said they want to finish the job and get the outright title. “We still have next week, playing a Stanfod team that’s really good at home,” Robertson said, “and then the Pac-10 tournament and whatever’s out there for us afterward.”
— Christopher agreed, adding tha he’s unconcerned whether the Bears clinch the outright crown via an ASU loss on Thursday, or by getting it done themselves Saturday at Stanford. “I would just like it to happen, period, whatever way it happens,” he said. “I’m selfish. I would love to have the championship myself. If we take care of business, we’ll have it.”