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March 11, 2010

Randle leads Bears to first-round win

LOS ANGELES-Jerome Randle was perfect-literally-in a dazzling first-half display that helped lift the Cal basketball team to a 90-74 win over Oregon on Thursday afternoon.

The senior guard mixed a variety of drives and long-range jumpers in shooting 8-for-8 in the first half for 22 points. He cooled off a bit in the second, but the Bears' 13-point halftime lead provided a building block, as Cal expanded the lead to 25 at one point in the second half.

The Bears shot 54.1 percent on the game, compared to Oregon's paltry 35.8.

"This was definitely a game that we needed to win," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "We shot the ball well, and when we do that it makes us very hard to beat."

The Bears move on to play UCLA on Friday in a 6 p.m. semifinal, the winner of which moves on to Saturday's 3 p.m. championship bout.

Cal placed itself in good position early with Randle leading the way. The veteran point guard sliced his way through the Ducks' defense for lay-ups or three-pointers, as both he and senior guard Patrick Christopher combined for 36 of the Bears' 47 first-half points.

The three-point bonanza by Cal helped expand an early 12-9 lead to 21-9 off a long-distance shot by Randle and two straight from Christopher. After a timeout, Oregon (16-16) answered with an 8-2 run of its own to cut the Bears' lead to 23-17.

Cal later went up 39-27 on a Randle three-pointer before entering halftime ahead 47-34.

"For not having a lot of time for shoot-around before the game and not having a normal pre-game warm-up like we would have at home or even on the road, I feel like we didn't have many problems," Christopher said. "We rotated the ball well."

On defense, 7-foot 3 sophomore center Max Zhang recovered enough from a partially collapsed lung to tally three blocks in six first-half minutes, just by merely raising his arms skyward.

Randle missed his only two shots in the second half, but it didn't matter.

With the Ducks' zone aiming to stop the Bears' three-point shooters, senior forward Jamal Boykin was given plenty of space to work inside. He scored all 15 of his points in the second half on 7-of-8 shooting.

Meanwhile, sophomore forward Omondi Amoke, provided a spark with 12 points and nine boards, and threw down a monstrous dunk just over four minutes into the second stanza to put Cal up 60-42.

"(Amoke) is our energy guy and that's what we need him to do," Montgomery said.

The magic that Oregon had summoned in an 82-80 overtime win over Washington State in the play-in game disappeared in a hurry.

Sharp-shooting Tajuan Porter had 32 points Wednesday, but shot just 3-for-12 in the first half Thursday, and didn't receive much help.

Porter ended the evening with 26 points on 8-of-22 shooting. LeKendric Longmire had 16 points.

At times, the 5-foot-7 Porter found himself trying to contain the 5-foot-8 Randle.

"We're kind of alike," Porter said. "You just have to make (Randle) take tough shots. He had an unbelievable game today."

Montgomery emptied his bench in the second half to allow his starters rest up for possibly two more games.

Thursday's contest marked the last time Ducks coach Ernie Kent will guide Oregon at the Pac-10 Tournament. Multiple media outlets have reported that the Ducks will fire Kent at season's end. Oregon, though, remains hopeful of a postseason bid whether it's through the National Invitational Tournament or College Basketball Invitational.

Kent declined to address the speculation afterward.

"This is not the place for me to talk about anything else right now," he said.

The Bears, on the other hand, advance to Friday's semifinal against the Bruins, who defeated Arizona, 75-69, in the first game of the day. Forward Reeves Nelson, who returned after missing four games with a partially torn retina, posted a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Cal split its meetings with UCLA this season, losing 76-75 at home and winning 72-58 in Los Angeles.

"Now that UCLA has Reeves Nelson back, they're very dangerous," Montgomery said. "Any time you play UCLA in Los Angeles, on their turf, you have to be ready and I know we will be."

Ball movement will be critical for the Bears to advance, Randle said.

"UCLA plays a great zone defense," he said. "In order to overcome that, we are going to have to be unselfish and find the open man."


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