California’s veteran lineup is performing at a high level, but its inexperienced bench is showing it still has some room to grow.
The 20th-ranked Golden Bears will try to improve to 4-0 for the first time in three years when they take on undefeated Georgia in the CBE Classic semifinals Monday night in Kansas City, Mo.
California stayed perfect with a 72-55 win over Austin Peay last Tuesday. The Golden Bears have won their first three games by an average of 21.7 points while holding opponents below 40 percent shooting in each contest.
Although Cal has been dominant in its first three games, the Bears haven’t been at their best in the second half. The Governors shot 17.2 percent in the first half, but 54.5 percent after the break, finishing with 11 offensive rebounds.
With its starters primarily on the bench, Cal has been outscored in the second half in two of its games while allowing teams to shoot 48.4 percent after the break overall.
“It’s probably human nature, you’re up by 27 and don’t have that same intensity,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “We’ve got to get where we can still get the same level of intensity off the bench.”
“It will be a bigger challenge for us,” Montgomery said. “We’re going to have to be better for longer.”
While Montgomery wants a better effort from his young bench, his veterans have performed well. Jorge Gutierrez, who scored 14 points against Austin Peay, is averaging 13.3 points and shooting 57.1 percent, while Harper Kamp is averaging 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. He had season highs of 12 points and nine rebounds in his last game.
However, Allen Crabbe, who scored 45 points the first two games, was held to two on 2-of-12 shooting last week. He’ll try to bounce back against Georgia, which is coming off a 72-61 win over South Dakota State last Wednesday.
The Bulldogs held the Jackrabbits to 39.3 percent from the field and overcame some offensive woes themselves, taking their first lead of the second half with 14:09 remaining. Donte’ Williams scored a career-high 17 points while Gerald Robinson added 15.
It was a big night for freshman Nemanja Djurisic, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half. He scored 12 points in 22 minutes in his previous two games, but matched that playing time in the victory.
“We didn’t play exceptionally well, but we played really hard for all 40 minutes and it gave us a good win that we can continue to build on as the season progresses,” coach Mark Fox said.
While Fox has had to replace his top two scorers from a team that went 21-12 and reached the NCAA tournament last season, it’s helped that freshman guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is contributing quickly.
A highly-regarded recruit, Caldwell-Pope has scored in double digits in all three games and is second on the team with 13.3 points per game.
This is the third meeting between the programs, with each team winning once. Georgia won 78-73 in overtime as part of the Wooden Classic in 2002.
The Bulldogs last started 4-0 in 2001, when they won their first five games.