Denver loses 1st game, 80-59 to No. 20 California
BERKELEY, Calif.—Denver's Brian Stafford had 40 family and friends sitting in the stands at Haas Pavilion in a rare Northern California appearance for the Pioneers' leading scorer.
Neither he nor his teammates gave them much to cheer about following opening introductions.
Stafford, who grew up 20 minutes east in Walnut Creek, was held to six points, well below his average, and Denver didn't have a single player in double digits during an 80-59 loss to No. 20 California on Saturday.
The Pioneers' first loss of the season came on the heels of their impressive win over Saint Mary's three nights earlier in Colorado.
"They're a good team and they just jumped on us from the beginning," said Stafford, who took only five shots in 27 minutes. "On both ends of the court we didn't really respond the right way. Offensively, we started trying to do things on our own instead of playing as a team."
Chris Udofia scored nine points to lead Denver (4-1), which was outmuscled inside in losing the rebounding battle 33-20 and outshot from the perimeter.
The Pioneers' main problem against the bigger, quicker and stronger Bears came on defense. Cal shot 52 percent from the floor, made 9 of 14 3-pointers and went 19 for 22 at the free-throw line.
Denver, off to the program's best start since winning seven straight to begin the 1996-97 season, never round a rhythm while facing a ranked opponent for the first time since losing to No. 10 Gonzaga on Nov. 24, 2003. The Pioneers haven't beaten a ranked team since a 96-74 victory over Utah State on Feb. 15, 1971.
"The defensive end for us was very poor," Denver coach Joe Scott said. "They were the aggressor, they were fast, they were strong. We were the reactor and then that transferred down to the other end and it sort of stayed the same on offense."
Allen Crabbe scored 15 points and matched his career high with 10 rebounds to help Cal stay unbeaten at home this season in Haas Pavilion.
Crabbe, last season's Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, shot 6 for 9 with three 3-pointers and helped the Bears (5-1) overcome a slow start against the Pioneers. Cal bounced back from a 92-53 defeat to No. 21 Missouri in the CBE Classic championship game Tuesday night in Kansas City, Mo.
"Coach was telling us that we shouldn't take this team lightly since they just came off that big win against Saint Mary's," Crabbe said. "They're a pretty smart team. We just focused on the details."
Justin Cobbs added a career-best 22 points on 7-for-9 shooting and made all four of his 3-point tries for the Bears. Harper Kamp had 11 points, five rebounds and five assists for Cal, which improved to 5-0 on its home floor and 24-3 in nonconference games at Haas during coach Mike Montgomery's four-year tenure. The Bears are in a stretch with six of seven games in Berkeley.
Denver has nine returning players and four starters back from a team that placed third in the Sun Belt Conference last season. Stafford, who came in averaging 17.0 points per game, is the top returner and continued to creep up the school's career scoring chart despite his off night.
"We only had one day to prepare for their stuff and that's kind of tough against a good team, especially when they come out and play like they did tonight," Stafford said. "We know we can play a lot better than we did."
Udofia -- Denver's second-leading scorer with a 15.3 average -- was 3 of 11 and 1 for 6 on 3s to go with six assists.
Cal star Jorge Gutierrez picked up two first-half fouls and played only six minutes before returning after halftime. Cobbs filled in nicely, knocking down two 3-pointers during an 11-3 spurt.
Gutierrez finished with 11 points and made all eight of his free-throw tries as the Bears more than doubled the Pioneers in trips to the line. Cal shot 64.3 percent from 3-point range, going 9 for 14 -- an area Montgomery has said needs improvement. The Bears had made only 25 total before Saturday.
Cal missed its first six field-goal tries and began 3 for 10, but Denver also missed its initial six attempts before Stafford's layin at the 14-minute mark. Both teams were sloppy early, though Cal crashed the offensive glass to create second and third opportunities. The Bears wound up with only 13 turnovers, an improvement after committing a season-high 21 in the loss to Missouri. They had 78 through their first five games.
Cal has won all three meetings between the schools, which hadn't played since the 1967-68 season.