Mike Montgomery was deliriously happy after a 74-56 win over Hartford that earned him his 600th career victory.
“Just happy to get a win. It’s an even number,” said Montgomery.
The most emotion Monty showed was smiling broadly while giving high-fives to his wife, daughter and a couple young nephews in the stands above the team bench before dashing off the court.
Asked if he could remember his first victory, in his debut season at Montana in 1978-79, Montgomery said, “It’s a good chance it was Doane College or Wisconsin-Stout.”
Yes, it was Wisconsin-Stout, and Montana prevailed 61-41. “I wonder if they’re still available,” Monty joked.
He told his players afterward he was happy, but would like to collect a few more victories this season.
“He was (asking), could we get to 612 or 615 by the end of the season?” said freshman Allen Crabbe, who celebrated the occasion with a career-high 17 points to go with nine rebounds. “We just laughed about it. It’s a challenge for us to see if we can get some victories in the Pac-10.”
“We’ll try to get to six (hundred) and some teens,” Montgomery confirmed.
— NEXT UP: The Bears open Pac-10 play Sunday at Stanford. Asked if he thinks his Bears (7-5) are ready, Montgomery said the team needs to improve in every aspect. “I’d like to have another two years of practice,” he said.
— CRABBE FEAST: Montgomery was pleased by the performance of Crabbe, who hit 5 of 9 from 3-point range and scored a career-high 17 points to go with nine rebounds. Crabbe had two assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes.
“Crabbe shot the ball well –that was good to see,” Montgomery said. “They played that 1-3-1 zone some, and Allen got some looks from the corner.”
“Each game I just try to be more aggressive,” Crabbe said. “If I’m not aggressive, I’m not helping the team at all.”
Crabbe’s previous high game was 12 points against Temple.
— 10 & 10: Likewise, Crabbe’s old Los Angeles-Price HS teammate, freshman forward Richard Solomon, had career-bests of 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double. He also had three blocked shots.
“It shows the level I can play at,” Solomon said. “After the Kansas game I wasn’t too happy with myself. After Christmas break I came back with a different mindset. Just go after everything, be active, play hard, be aggressive.”
— SMITH, TOO: Career-bests everywhere against Hartford, likely the weakest team Cal will play all season. Sophomore point guard Brandon Smith had 15 points in his first start, replacing freshman Gary Franklin in the lineup.
“I just wanted to try something different. I think Gary’s been pressing, trying so hard to do everything,” Montgomery explained. “I also was interested in having Jorge (Gutierrez) at the 2 to start.”
While it worked out well for Smth, Franklin was ill and played just 10 minutes, and Gutierrez shot 2 for 9 with seven turnovers, although he did dish six assists.
— SORE FEET: Montgomery said he held senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison out of the game simply to give his feet a little rest. Sanders-Frison was diagnosed as having plantar-fasciitis in both feet, and the night off means he will have not played in a game in 11 days when the Bears face Stanford on Sunday.
“We’ll see where he goes from here,” Montgomery said. “He’s a key part of this thing. We really need him.”
— BAK BOARDS: Sophomore Bak Bak, who started for Sanders-Frison, blew a breakaway dunk, but had a career-high 10 rebounds, blocked a shot and had two steals.
— FIRST TIMERS: Transfer Jeff Powers, a De La Salle HS grad, saw his first action, contributing two rebounds in five minutes. Robert Thurman, another walkon transfer, had a block and scored his first point in three mintes.