BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Jorge Gutierrez had a career-high 18 points and eight assists, Markhuri Sanders-Frison added 15 points and 10 rebounds and California won its season opener 80-63 over Cal State Northridge on Tuesday night.
Gutierrez, the lone remaining starter from last year’s Pac-10 championship team, took only four shots but made 13 of 15 free throws. Eight came in the final seven minutes for the Golden Bears, who extended their home winning streak against nonconference opponents to 20.
Cal coach Mike Montgomery’s team overcame a sluggish first half and led by as many as 21 despite missing 11 of 16 3-pointers.
Rashaun McLemore scored a career-best 24 points to lead Northridge (0-2).
The Bears won their first conference championship in 50 years last season but are in rebuilding mode this year after losing Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle and three other starters to graduation.
Gutierrez and Harper Kamp are at the heart of Cal’s makeover. Both showed why against the Matadors.
In his first game since replacing Randle at point guard, Gutierrez ran an offense that at times looked rusty and at other times sharp. The eight assists were a career high for Gutierrez, while his 18 points were three better than his previous best.
Kamp, who sat out all of 2009 recovering from knee surgery, had 12 points and seven rebounds. That enabled Cal to keep the game close until Gutierrez got the offense going in the second half.
The Bears have never lost to the Matadors in six games. Cal beat Northridge in 1995 but later forfeited the game due to NCAA violations.
Northridge, only two years removed from appearing in the NCAA tournament, kept it close in the first half but went scoreless for more than six minutes early in the second. The Matadors missed seven straight shots during the drought and never recovered.
Michael Lizarraga, who attended the California School for the Deaf in nearby Hayward, scored a career-best 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting for Northridge.
Cal’s inexperience showed early. The Bears went more than five minutes without a field goal, missed eight of 12 free throws during one stretch and repeatedly struggled trying to get the ball inside against Northridge’s zone defense.
The Matadors, who lost to UCLA 83-59 in their opener Friday, led by five on McLemore’s step-back 18-footer with 3:55 to go in the half. The Bears later tied the game before McLemore’s free throw gave Northridge a 37-36 lead at the break.
Northridge, 2-for-12 on 3-pointers in the loss to the Bruins, had six in the first half.
Sanders-Frison scored four straight points for Cal coming out of the break and Allen Crabbe added five points as part of a 13-0 run that pushed the Bears’ lead to 51-39.
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