A somewhat peculiar game, I thought. Statistically, Cal did a lot of things right — shot a season-high 53.7 percent, had a season-high 20 assists, a season-low 13 turnovers and got career nights from several players,.
Yet, the Golden Bears struggled much of the night to separate themselves from a UC Davis team that arrived in Berkeley having beaten a Pac-10 team just once in 54 previous attempts. Cal didn’t take charge until an 11-0 run midway through the second half that stretched the margin to 18 points.
Coach Mike Montgomery acknowledged the Aggies scouted his team well, and were able to crowd the lane and take certain things away. He also said passers made poor decisions at times and his defense more than once lost track of shooters in transition.
But Montgomery also saw things he liked, starting with freshman guard Gary Franklin, who rebounded nicely from a rough time at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. After missing 28 of 36 shots in those three games, Franklin made better decisions, shooting 4 for 8, including 3 for 6 from the 3PT line, while totaling 13 points and four assists.
“Gary’s a good basketball player,” Montgomery said. “He’s not going to have games like that all the time. Hopefully never. Got to let the game come to you. That’s the case for a lot of our guys. I thought he did a lot better job of that.”
Franklin played with a badly blood-shot right eye, the result of being poked by the finger of a Temple player last Thursday. He quickly added the poke in the eye was no excuse for his poor shooting in Florida.
“I was maybe a little over-eager,” he said. “Tonight I came in with the mindset I was going to take shots in rhythm and shots I can make.”
Meanwhile, the Bears got a season-best 27 points from their reserves. In three games in Florida, the backups totaled just 18 points.
“The bench really saved us tonight,” Montgomery said.
Sophomore forward Bak Bak had career-bests of 12 points (on 6 for 6 shooting) and six rebounds, all in 14 minutes off the bench. He had scored just three points all year.
”We talked after the trip. He said he thought he could help and we wanted to give him a chance to help, and he did,” Montgomery said.
Junior walk-on guard Nigel Carter made both his 3-point shots for a career-high six points. “They were shots that came out of offense,” Montgomery said. “He got his feet set and jumped up and shot ‘em in. I thought he did a great job with that.”
Freshman forward Richard Solomon, who provided 12 of the Bears’ 18 bench points in Florida, had another solid game off the bench with a career-best seven points and six rebounds.
– Montgomery, in his third season, recorded his 50th win in 74 games with the Bears, the fastest a Cal coach has reached 50 wins since Nibs Price did it in 60 games from 1924-29. Montgomery also moved within three wins of 600 for his career.
– Cal has won 21 consecutive non-conference home games and 41 of its past 42. The Bears are 34-3 against all opponents at Haas under Montgomery.
– Harper Kamp tied his career high with five assists.
– Franklin, who had inexplicably made just 2 of 10 free throws this season, said he took 100 after practice Tuesday and converted his only two attempts.