Basketball: Bears doomed by historically wretched first half vs. Notre Dame

Well, that was fairly horrendous.

First half: Five points. Game over.

Who could have seen this coming? Perhaps we should have.

Well, not a 21-5 halftime deficit against Notre Dame in the second round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. But a completely-out-of-sync performance by a young team playing an opponent with four senior starters, plus a fourth-year junior.

The final score — 57-44 — was irrelevant, other than to provide evidence the Bears did not throw in the towel.

“If somebody picked up the paper they’d say, ‘Ah, they lost to Notre Dame by 13,”  Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “But if you watched it, you’d have a little different impression.”

One night after upsetting No. 21 Temple, the Bears looked like the inexperienced club they are, playing with four new starters, two of them freshmen.

Even so, the first half was hard to believe. According to the NCAA online record book, the teams set an NCAA record for fewest combined points in the shot-clock era (beginning 1986), breaking the mark of 27 set the day before at the Old Spice Classic by Wisconsin and Manhattan.

The Associated Press reported that the record actually is 18, in a game played between Savannah State and North Carolina Central, according to STATS LLC. The AP story did not indicate what year that took place.

Cal (3-1) shot 2 for 25 in the half, missed all eight of its 3-point attempts, got no points from its guards and did not score in the final 9:16 of the period.

The Bears avoided the modern NCAA record for fewest points in a half, an ignominious total of four points scored by Savannah State in a 2008 loss to Kansas State. Talk about your hollow consolation.

Montgomery was so angry about the performance he emphatically scolded his team at halftime. “It was like the bully at lunchtime out on the playground,” he said.

It could have been much worse except that the Irish (6-0) missed all 13 of their 3-pointers in the half .

The Bears managed to avoid their lowest point total for a game since losing 59-37 to Washington State back on Jan. 14, 1988.

A variety of factors contributed to the collapse. Cal played impatiently on offense, making poor decisions with its passes and shots.

By game’s end, the Bears improved their shooting percentage from 8 percent at halftime to a still feeble 26.2 percent. They committed 15 turnovers. They were outscored 26-6 at the free throw line. They totaled assists assists as a team.

Freshman guard Allen Crabbe led the Bears with 10 points and 10 rebounds — his first collegiate double-double — and junior forward Harper Kamp had nine points and seven rebounds, although he battled foul trouble. Junior point guard Jorge Gutierrez had his second straight off-night on offense, totaling seven points on 3 for 13 shooting, with four turnovers. He averaged 19 points through Cal’s first two games.

Freshman Gary Franklin Jr. made three 3-pointers — all in the second half — but missed his other 11 shots. Senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison had nine rebounds, but shot 1 for 6 and fouled out with 11:45 left.

Again, the Bears got little from their bench, aside from freshman forward Richard Solomon, who contributed four points and six rebounds.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays Boston College (3-2) on Sunday at 10 a.m. PST in the Old Spice third-place game. (No games on Saturday). The Eagles lost 65-55 to Wisconsin in Friday’s semifinal. Sunday’s game will be telecast on ESPNU. 

For those of you who don’t get ESPNU, word is ex-Cal center Michael “Yogi” Stewart may be doing radio commentary with Roxy Bernstein on 1550-AM.

Jeff Faraudo