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Cal’s Gutierrez speaks softly, carries a loud game
Jorge Gutierrez has shown during his junior season that he's among the more prolific scorers in Pac-10 Conference men's basketball.
The California Golden Bears guard came into Thursday night's game against the Oregon Ducks with a conference-best 22.2 points per game during the month of February, and he topped that against Oregon, scoring 23 in an 81-71 comeback victory at the Ducks' Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.
I caught up with Gutierrez after the game and I can tell you one thing:
This guy lets his play do all the talking.
And in that sense, on the court, he speaks loudly. But off the court … not so much.
Oregon held a 45-34 lead at halftime before the Bears rallied with a big second half. I asked Gutierrez what changed for Cal in that second half.
"We were very quiet and we weren't playing hard," he said of the Bears' first-half effort.
I asked him about the defensive adjustments the Bears made at halftime, as they forced Oregon into halfcourt sets and stifled the Ducks' ability to get good looks at the basket.
"We just kept being aggressive," he said.
I mentioned the difference in shooting, as Cal improved on its first-half mark of 48.1 percent by shooting 62.5 percent in the second stanza.
"I think that was just because we were aggressive," he said.
Understand, Gutierrez is not rude at all. Nor is his English poor, by any means. The junior from Chihuahua, Mexico, is just very soft-spoken, and comes across humble, and doesn't like to talk about himself, at all.
On the court, it's a different story. I was extremely impressed with his game; he's an athletic scorer who can get to the rim and knock down outside shots. He nailed a big three-pointer from the top of the key with 8:21 left to play to give Cal a 61-57 lead and finally quiet the raucous Oregon crowd.
The Ducks hung around, but Gutierrez helped put the game away by scoring Cal's last four points, two on free throws with about a minute left and two more on a layup with 45 seconds to go.
He finished with 16 of his 23 points in the second half, and also had five assists.
So what if he doesn't talk much after the game?
Having encountered my share of egotistical sports figures throughout the years, it's actually a bit refreshing to come across a star player who is shy, and polite. Sure, it's a little frustrating when it comes time to get a good quote. And word was that after he scored 34 points to help Cal defeat UCLA 76-72 in overtime on February 20, Gutierrez slipped out and wasn't available for interviews. Apparently he had a good reason for going MIA, though; he had family in town from Mexico, and being with his family trumped talking to reporters.
Gutierrez obliged interview requests after the Oregon game, in which he shot 8-for-13 from the field for his game-high 23.
He might not have said much after that performance, but he didn't really need to.
His play had already spoken volumes.
Second-Half Slump Dooms Ducks Against Golden Bears, GoDucks.com
2010-2011 Schedule, CalBears.com
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