The Bears’ three most experienced players did what they’re supposed to do in an 80-63 season-opening win over Cal State Northridge.
Jorge Gutierrez, Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Harper Kamp combined for 45 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, and came off the bench with just over 8 minutes left to trigger a 10-2 Cal run that staved off any ideas the Matadors had about rallying.
Coach Mike Montgomery had the kind of mixed feelings he’s likely to feel often this season while trying to blend five freshmen with his veterans.
“We’ve got to allow these young kids to learn,” Montgomery said. “But I’ve got to figure out some rotations where I have maybe two of those (older) guys on the floor at any given time.”
On Tuesday night, Montgomery was happy to have his three-headed security blanket:
— Gutierrez, the junior point guard, had took just four shots from the field, but had 18 points and eight assists — both career highs — and made 13 of 15 FTs. He had two turnovers, both in the first half, and two steals.
— Sanders-Frison, the senior forward, had career highs of 15 points and 10 rebounds, adding up to his first double-double. He was 7 for 10 from the FT line, a big improvement from a year ago.
— Kamp, a junior forward, contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.
KAMP’S RETURN: “I was pretty nervous today,” said Kamp, anxious to play in his first official game since the end of the 2008-09 season. He sat out last season while rehabbing a knee injury. ”My stomach was hurting all day. As soon as I get out on the court, starting warming up with the guys, I was thankful to be out there. It’s the best feeling in the world for me.”
Montgomery noticed that early in the game Kamp seemed to be trying to out-quick his opponents around the basket. In the second half, the 6-8, 250-pounder played a more aggressive, physical game. “He’s critical for us, without question,” Monty said.
FREE THROWS: Cal took advantage of 37 Northridge fouls to shoot 50 free throws. The Bears made their first 10, then converted just 21 of their next 40.
“That’s discouraging. I really kind of scolded these guys,” Montgomery said. “I was a little shocked we missed free throws like we did. . . . We did enough things to get to the basket to get 50 free throws, but we’ve got to convert more than that.”
THE FRESHMEN: Six nights after lighting up Division II Sonoma State for 58 points, the Bears’ freshmen totaled a more modest 23 against Northridge. There were good things and bad.
Allen Crabbe, starting at one wing, shot 3 for 5 from the field and totaled eight points and four rebounds. He also had three turnovers. Gary Franklin Jr., starting opposite Crabbe, had seven points and two assists, but shot 1 for 5 from 3-point range and missed all three of his FTs.
Richard Solomon had six points, four rebounds, a steal and an assist in 14 minutes. But he missed three of four FTs. Emerson Murray contibuted two points and three rebounds, missing his only two FTs. Alex Rossi, a little banged up, did not play.