Three nights after taking on the nation’s leading scorer, Jorge Gutierrez gets the chance to challenge a player ranked No. 4 on the list.
But beating UC Santa Barbara on Monday night at Haas Pavilion will require more than Gutierrez and the Bears slowing down senior G Orlando Johnson. The Gauchos (5-3) are a very capable squad, with losses to UNLV, San Diego State and Washington by a combined margin of just 14 points. They took SDSU into overtime and UNLV into double-OT.
Still, Johnson will be a handful. He scored 36 points in an overtime loss to UNLV and had five 30-point games a year ago. He has scored in double figures in 69 of 70 games he’s played for UCSB since transferring from Loyola Marymount after his freshman season.
At 6-foot-5, Johnson is three inches taller than Weber State’s Damian Lillard, and may not be as susceptible to physical defensive play. The 6-3 Gutierrez helped limit Lillard to a season-low 14 points on Friday night in the Bears’ 77-57 win.
Weber State coach Randy Rahe called Gutierrez “one of the best defenders in the country,” and Lillard didn’t argue that.
“He’s a great defender, a smart player,” said the junior from Oakland High. “And when you’ve got to guard him, he’s always moving on offense.”
Cal coach Mike Montgomery said he was pleased that Gutierrez, who can be an emotional player at times, maintained an even keel in his approach to facing Lillard.
“I have confidence in Jorge as a defender. I have confidence in Jorge as a competitor,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t want him to get so amped up that he got in foul trouble. Jorge did a good job of staying under control.”
Gutierrez made his reputation early at Cal as a defensive player, but Montgomery said he’s even improved that aspect of his game.
“He’s a little smarter. He’s stronger for sure, so he’s not as easy to screen,” Montgomery said. “Once he figures out what you want to do, he’s pretty good at taking away certain things. And he’s smarter about not getting cheap fouls.”
ABOUT THE GAUCHOS: UCSB is a veteran team, with four senior starters who have led the program to consecutive NCAA tournament bids for the first time in school history . . . Senior G Orlando Johnson of Seaside is the nation’s No. 4 scorer at 22.4 ppg. He averaged 28.7 in games this season against UNLV, San Diego State and Washington. He has scored 1,776 career points . . . Senior SF James Nunnally has 1,336 career points . . . Coach Bob Williams enters this game tied with Jerry Pimm for the most wins (222) in school history . . . Freshman G T.J. Taylor, formerly of Oakland HS, scored a career-high 10 points in the UNLV loss.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 8-0. The Bears won 87-66 in the teams’ most recent meeting in 2009-10. The Gauchos are 20-68 all-time vs. current members of the Pac-12 Conference, including a combined 1-37 vs. Cal, UCLA and USC. Cal is 82-6 all-time vs. the Big West.
MISCELLANY: This has been designated the Pete Newell Claassic, honoring the late coach who guided the Bears to the 1959 NCAA title and a return trip to the national championship game in 1960. Former Cal two-sport star Earl Robinson, who played for Newell from 1956-58, will be recognized at halftime with the Pete Newell Lifetime Achievement award . . . Cal leads the Pac-12 in rebounding margin at plus-9.6 per game; UCSB is at plus-6.9 . . . The Bears continue to shoot well: 42.1 percent from the 3-point arc and 75.0 percent from the FT line . . . Senior Harper Kamp gave himself a clean shave before the Weber State game, hoping to change things and shake himself out of an offensive lull. He had averaged just 5.3 points over the previous three games, then scored 11 against the Wildcats.
TIPOFF: 7:30 p.m. Monday at Haas Pavilion, Berkeley. Radio: 910-AM.
Cal (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12)
|SF Allen Crabbe||6-6||So.||15.8||5.8|
|PF Harper Kamp||6-8||Sr.||8.8||5.5|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||Fr.||5.2||6.0|
|SG Jorge Gutierrez||6-3||Sr.||13.9||5.0|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||So.||10.8||4.6*|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Jr.||4.9||3.1*|
|G Emerson Murray||6-2||So.||2.3||0.6|
|F Bak Bak||6-8||Jr.||2.5||1.7|
UC Santa Barbara (5-3, 0-0 Big West)
|PF Jaime Serna||6-9||Sr.||10.9||4.6|
|SF James Nunnally||6-7||Sr.||17.0||5.6|
|SG Orlando Johnson||6-5||Sr.||22.4||7.3|
|SG Christian Peterson||6-3||Sr.||3.0||3.9|
|PG Nate Garth||6-2||Jr.||4.4||2.9*|
|C Greg Somogyi||7-3||Sr.||3.5||3.9|
|G Kyle Boswell||6-2||So.||8.0||2.4|
|G T.J. Taylor||5-9||Fr.||4.3||2.9*|