Friday, Nov. 28, 2008 | 6:58 p.m.
Final, Cal wins 73-55
It was the most efficient offensive output UNLV has allowed yet in the 2008-09 season, and couple that with 29.7 percent shooting on the Rebels' part, then you get what happened Friday evening in the Thomas & Mack Center. California downed UNLV, 73-55, in the semifinals of the Global Sports Classic.
Cal raced out early behind a slew of 3-pointers. The Bears made their first four attempts from deep, and were paced by junior point guard Jerome Randle's 18 points and eight assists.
UNLV closed back to within nine points in the second half, but had trouble capitalizing on offensive opportunities during a stretch in which Cal scored just two field goals in 10 minutes.
Wink Adams led the Rebels with 10 points, but they were hardly pretty. He didn't hit a shot from further away than a few feet all night, and went just 3-of-14 from the floor. As a team, UNLV was 19-of-64 from the field. Cal had five players - four of them starters - in double figures. Findlay Prep product Jorge Gutierrez also chipped in 10 off the bench for the 5-0 Bears, who get the winner of the nightcap between Florida State and Cincinnati tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. back at the Mack. UNLV will play the loser of that tilt at 5:00.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, photos, stats, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:57, second half, Cal leads 59-48
Jamal Boykin just added an and-one layup - the free throw to come after the game's final media timeout - which was just Cal's second in roughly 10 minutes. UNLV's done a bit to chip back at a 20-point second half deficit in that time, but not enough, as it trails the Bears by 11 points with under four minutes to play.
Joe Darger hit the biggest shot of that stretch with a three-pointer from the left wing, but shots have been hard to come by all night for the Rebels. Well, at least made shots. UNLV is just 16-of-56 from the floor. That's 28.6 percent. Wink Adams just hit a driving scoop for his second bucket of the night, making him 2-of-12 from the floor.
11:06, second half, Cal leads 54-40
Oscar Bellfield awoke the drifting Thomas & Mack Center crowd with some action on both ends. First, after a Brice Massamba bucket underneath, he stole the inbounds pass and tipped in his own miss in the open court. After that, he hunted down Jerome Randle from behind and slapped the ball out of his hands and out of bounds. That effort got folks on their feet, and a layup in transition by Mo Rutledge off of a Kendall Wallace steal-and-dish forced the Bears into taking a timeout just before the media break.
After a Cal miss, Massamba drew a defensive foul while trying to put back a Tre'Von Willis miss.
The best hope for the Rebels is that this group on the floor made up of four reserves can continue to chip away so that Wink Adams, Rene Rougeau & Co. can finish the job late. Adams still has just one field goal on the night and has three fouls.
15:06, second half, Cal leads 48-32
UNLV looked like it might be making its push early in the second half, but it took Cal next to no time to snuff that out, as the Bears have gone on another mini-run to bump their lead back up at 48-32.
First, Jerome Randle hit his fourth three-pointer of the game, then after a Jamal Boykin layup underneath, Randle lead a break, faked out a Rebel defender and flipped an alley-oop toss up to Patrick Christopher, which all but silenced the Thomas & Mack Center crowd.
You can't help but be impressed tonight with Randle, who's proving that those numbers he's put up against weaker foes are no fluke. He has 16 points and seven assists so far.
Halftime, Cal leads, 39-26
Through the final eight minutes of the first half, UNLV played Cal to within two points. It's just those first 12 minutes of the game which UNLV now has to find a way to make up for.
The Rebels trail the Bears, 39-26, at the break, as Cal has finally cooled following a blistering start from the field. After hitting 12 of their first 19 shots, Cal's hit just three of its last eight. Meanwhile, UNLV was just 8-of-31 from the floor in the first half. Rene Rougeaou and Tre'Von Willis lead the Rebs with five points apiece, while Wink Adams has just two points and is 0-for-5 from the floor.
Here are some other notable figures from the first half.
-Cal point guard Jerome Randle is so far the most impressive performer in this one. He has 13 points (on 3-of-3 3-point shooting), six assists and two rebounds. His three ball is very reminiscent of that of former Texas A&M guard Acie Law - nearly no rotation on it.
-Cal is outrebounding UNLV, 22-15
-3-point shooting has been an issue so far this year for UNLV. Tonight, the Rebels are 3-of-8 from deep. It's everywhere else that's killing them. They're 5-of-21 from two-point range.
-Cal is 6-of-7 from three-point range, and is now shooting 62 percent from deep on the season.
-7-foot-3 Cal center Max Zhang played six minutes and had three blocked shots, but altered many more than that. His six minutes were very valuable for the Bears. He's only averaging seven minutes per game this season.
If Cal rediscovers that groove it found for the first 10 minutes of the game, UNLV could be in trouble. The Rebels will make a run, but finding weaknesses will be tough. Cal played a more-than-solid game through the first 20 minutes.
7:15, first half, Cal leads 30-19
Current Findlay big men Carlos Lopez and Godwin Okonji are in the stands to watch two former teammates - Jorge Gutierrez and Brice Massamba - do battle. So far, Gutierrez is winning that battle both individually and team-wise.
Gutierrez's Cal Bears are still up big on UNLV, 30-19, and he's scored seven points off the bench in five minutes, including a three-pointer. Jerome Randle continues to pace the Bears, with eight points and five assists, and Cal is 12-of-19 from the floor.
Tre'Von Willis and Kenall Wallace each cashed threes off the bench for the Rebels in the last few minutes, but Cal has refused to slow down, and is constantly moving on the offensive end. It's taking some adjustment, for sure.
Lon Kruger is putting DeShawn Mitchell in the game for the first time since last Saturday against North Carolina A&T. Maybe he's searching for a spark.
11:46, first half, Cal leads 20-9
UNLV got a little bit of an offensive spark off the bench with Oscar Bellfield cashing an immediate three from the left corner, but defensively, UNLV's having a tough time slowing Cal's slew of slashing guards.
Since an 0-of-5 start from the floor, Cal is 8-of-9, including a 4-of-4 showing from three-point range. First, Theo Robertson hit one off a feed from the high post by Jordan Wilkes. Then, Jerome Randle swished his second deep trey of the night. Patrick Christopher scored on a slashing layup, and Robertson added another two.
Cal's now put three guys in off the bench, and expect those to be the only three Mike Montgomery goes to. An interesting specimen in there is 7-foot-3 center Max Zhang, the tallest player in Cal history. Montgomery also put in Jorge Gutierrez, who played last year at Findlay Prep.
14:54, first half, Cal leads 10-4
UNLV's had the advantage of getting off to slow starts and still being in the game against weaker foes so far this season, but tonight there might not be such a large window for error. Cal's Jerome Randle is making sure of that.
Tre'Von Willis has gotten off to a slow start with a missed jumper, two turnovers and an offensive foul. The diminutive Randle has made UNLV pay. First, he scored the Bears' first bucket with a coast-to-coast layup, then gave a sneer towards his bench after feeding Jordan Wilkes for two more. Randle then hit a deep three from the right wing, and fed Jamal Boykin for another trifecta. A carrying call before the media timeout was his first miscue of the night.
Darris Santee already has four rebounds for UNLV and has been the lone bright spot so far for Lon Kruger's club. He's defending well in the post.
Welcome to round three of the Global Sports Classic. And if you're a UNLV follower, rounds three and four are the only ones which pertain to you. First up is UNLV vs. Cal in a matchup of unbeatens, followed by Florida State and Cincinnati in - you guessed it - another battle of unbeatens.
The first of the two, though, is a little different than it seems. While UNLV's record is an unblemished 5-0, the Rebels have been tested a little more than 4-0 Cal. And by saying more tested, I'm referring to UNLV's 80-67 victory at UTEP Monday night in El Paso. True, UNLV isn't playing any world-beaters yet, but UTEP was a bigger test than anything Cal's seen. It was a well-earned, come-from-behind victory against a pesky, athletic team. The Bears, on the other hand, have yet to leave Berkeley for game action.
Depending on how full and loud this place is tonight, Cal could face its first truly hostile environment of the season. The Bears have looked solid under first-year coach Mike Montgomery (not much of a surprise), but depth is a bit of an issue. Meanwhile, UNLV is showing to be eight or nine men strong.
It's a casual atmosphere here at the Thomas & Mack Center, with coaches rockin' the polo shirts rather than suits and ties. Don't forget, this is a tournament, not just a standard home game.
That said, on to tonight's three big predictions.
1) Picks to click: After we were both successful with our Wink Adams/Tre'Von Willis picks Monday night, Miech is taking Rene Rougeau. Yours truly opts for Willis.
2) Expect UNLV to try and go inside quite a bit. I know that sounds a bit repetitive, but the Rebels have a pretty decent size advantage this evening, and Darris Santee is looking better and better as the games go by.
3) UNLV 78, Cal 65. Too much size and depth for Cal to handle successfully. While the Bears will be improved under Montgomery, this will be one of the early lumps they'll take.
Talk to you after tip-off.