The Golden Bears (22-10) don't enter the NCAA tournament with a whole lot of momentum. California has lost four out of its last six games, including a first-round defeat in the Pacific-10 tournament.
First-year coach Mike Montgomery said during a conference call yesterday not to get too carried away with the fact his team is ranked No. 1 in the country in three-point shooting. The Bears got off to a torrid start from beyond the arc, but have since cooled off a bit.
"I think that's a little bit of a misnomer, in terms of being the top three-point shooting team in the country," Montgomery said. "I think that's statistics. We really got off to a fast start and our percentage was way up, almost uncanny, and then we've kind of come down to earth a little bit the last half of the season when people have scouted and figured out what we need to do."
The Golden Bears' attack flows through a trio of junior guards. Jerome Randle (5 feet 10, 160 pounds) runs the point. His natural inclination, Montgomery said, is to score, but Randle has developed more inclusive tendencies, as well. Randle averages a team-high 18.4 points per game and shoots 46.8 percent from three-point range, the third-highest mark in the country. He also averages 4.9 assists per game.
Patrick Christopher (6-5, 215 pounds) adds some size to Cal's back court. He averages 14.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He shoots 44.7 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three-point range. Christopher and Randle both were named to the all-Pac-10 first team.
Theo Robertson (6-6, 225 pounds) rounds out the trio. Robertson, who sat out all of last season after undergoing hip surgery in April 2007, plays more of a swingman role. He averages 12.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He shoot 48.9 percent from the field.
"He's been a great addition this year and he's played a couple different positions," Montgomery said of Robertson. "When we go small, he moves to the four and he's pretty comfortable there. He's been very steady, doesn't make a lot of mistakes because he doesn't put himself in position to make mistakes."
Montgomery extended a similar assessment to his three key shooters as a group.
"We have three perimeter guys that are all pretty accomplished and the offense seems to click for them in terms of knowing when we can shoot and when not to," Montgomery said. "We've really been forced into that because we don't have, you know, a back-to-basket low post game that we've been able to go to consistently. We're pretty comfortable with the shots that we're taking because that's what we have to take."
The Golden Bears have some big bodies in their lineup. Junior forward Jamal Boykin (6-8, 230 pounds), a transfer from Duke, provides Cal a small measure of stability in the post. More in need of development is senior center Jordan Wilkes (7 feet, 225 pounds).
Boykin averages 9.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting 53.2 percent. Wilkes averages 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent.
"We just don't really have a guy that we can station at the post with his back to the basket that's very comfortable against the level of people that we've had to play against," Montgomery said. "So we use it as best we can, but it's not something that we've found a way to incorporate nearly as well as I'd like."
Off the bench, Cal brings freshman guard Jorge Guitierrez (6-3, 185 pounds) and sophomore forward Harper Kamp (6-8, 255 pounds). Guitierrez leads the team in steals (27) and averages 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He shoot 45.4 percent. Kamp averages 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 49.5 percent.
Overall, the Golden Bears shoot 48.5 percent from the field (No. 9 in the nation) and 43.4 percent from three-point range (No. 1 in the nation).
"You keep adding little wrinkles to help you if you can to try to misdirect and try to get people to go one direction and come back the other direction cause we're going to end up having to shoot the ball," Montgomery said. "The better defense you play, the more chances you'll have to get out on the break, which is your high-percentage stuff, and we like to do that as much as we can. But that requires defense and rebounding, which we're not always able to do as well as we'd like."
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