The outside shot just wasn’t there for California.
While Maryland head coach Gary Williams stated his defense allowed the Terrapins to pull away from the Bears, most that followed Cal have to believe if guard Jerome Randle pulls up and takes some 3’s instead of driving to the hoop, it’s a very different ball game.
That is easy said then done.
“If I'm scouting us I'm going to say look, I would get up into Jerome and not give him any opportunities to get a clean look,” Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said about defending his starting point guard.
"At 5’8, he needs a little space even though he has great range. He needs space because a bigger player can maybe change shots.”
The Bears’ shot 43% from 3-point in the regular season to lead the nation, but the Terps used pressure defense to stifle Cal’s opportunities from the perimeter.
“I thought it was our defense that allowed to us to get easy baskets,” Williams said in the post game press conference.
Grievis Vasquez scored 27 points and led a Maryland defense that shutdown one of the nation’s best 3-pointing shooting teams. Cal shot just 7-of-24 from beyond the arc, and as we’ve seen all season, the Bears cannot win ball games if the outside game is off.
“[When] we don't shoot the ball we're not as good as we need to be,” said Montgomery. “I think that's been kind of apparent all year long, that we have won a lot of big games, important games, games on the road, Washington, Arizona when we shot the ball well."
Theo Robertson led the Bears with 22 points. Randle single handily kept the Bears in the game in the first half, scoring 11 points. But he finished with just 14 after taking just three shots in the second half.
Randle looks to pass the ball away from the defense of Maryland's Landon Milbourne. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Cal trailed 34-31 at the break. Jamal Boykin and Robertson hit back-to-back shots eight minutes into the second to give the Bears a 51-50 lead. But Maryland used a 24-8 run over the next seven minutes to pull away.
It looked early on that the Bears weren’t quite ready to handle the Terps full-court press after made shots. Nonetheless, Cal recorded only 14 turnovers. The difference was Maryland’s perimeter defense, and the Terps’ ability to score baskets down the stretch.
“We didn't handle it too great,” Randle said of Terps’ press defense. “[I] feel like I should have been a leader out there and got everybody in the right positions but, I mean it wasn't really a tough press. We just didn't, handle it well so I just feel like we should have just been smarter and just got the ball in the right spots when we needed to and it definitely hurt us, because we got a five count and got a couple turnovers [and] changed the game a little bit.”
“I don't know truthfully that Maryland did anything appreciably different than others did,” said Montgomery. “They got us out of our rhythm a little bit. Maybe that's a consequence of their press. But we just never seemed to really get much of a rhythm. So it's very difficult for us to compete against a good team and Maryland is a good team without shooting the ball well.”
Eric Hayes was big off the bench for Maryland with 14 points and Dave Neal chipped in 15 points.
“I’m just proud of these guys, they’re hard workers,” said Williams. “California came out did a good job defensively. We managed to maintain a lead…the players did a good job of executing down the stretch.”
Maryland will face Memphis on Saturday in a second round matchup. Cal finishes the season with a 22-11 record.