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Cal stands up to Bulldog big men

By Tuukka Hess Daily Planet Correspondent
Thursday November 16, 2000

Hampered by foul trouble and hobbled by a swollen right ankle and knee, Sean Lampley battled a powerful Mississippi State frontcourt to lead Cal to an 83-76 overtime victory in the first round of the NIT Preseason Tournament last Monday night. 

After the game, Coach Ben Braun commented on the physical play of Lampley: “What a performance with foul trouble he had, especially being banged-up. Certainly one of the guttiest performances he’s had. He didn’t leave anything out on the floor.” 

The Golden Bears faced a powerful Bulldog frontcourt, lead by junior center Robert Jackson and the 6-9, 265 pound McDonald’s All-American freshman Mario Austin. 

Mississippi State had trouble utilizing their inside game, and it was only the deadly shooting of Austin Jackson that kept them in the game, as Cal pulled out to an early 11-4 lead. In the first half Jackson made four of five three-point attempts on his way to a game-high 26 points, forcing Cal to abandon the inside double-teams and increasing the pressure on the Cal frontcourt to single-cover the Bulldog lineup. Led by Lampley, the Cal frontcourt responded, and it was only the hot hand of Jackson that kept Cal from taking a lead larger than the 35-30 halftime score.  

Commenting on the open shots Jackson had in the first half, Braun noted that: “The double team was effective early, but we got slower rotations after that. When you double-team that doesn’t mean you leave people open, and we did. It’s something we need to work on.”  

The second half began on an inauspicious note when Lampley was saddled with is third personal foul and the Mississippi State frontcourt roared back to life.  

With Lampley out of play, Bulldog guard Derrick Zimmerman promptly went down the court and dumped the ball into Austin each of the next three plays. Austin responded with a quick six points. 

Wits cool and hands hot, Cal moved their offense outside and toed the three-point arc. Foreshadowing the last moments of the game, Ryan Forehan-Kelly and Brian Wethers both popped from long range, and two Lampley baskets and a Solomon Hughes dunk gave the Golden Bears a 53-47 lead with 12:25 left in the game. 

With the game winding down, Mississippi State turned to their strength under the basket and attempted to muscle their way to victory. Austin scored six of the next eleven points to cut the Golden Bear lead to two, 60-58, and the spotlight turned to the Lampley-Austin matchup on the blocks. Lampley went to the foul stripe for two points, and Austin responded with another power basket.  

After Solomon Hughes answered a Tang Hamilton dunk to tie the score 72-72 with 15 seconds left in regulation, all eyes turned to where the battle had taken place all night: under the basket. Instead of short passes into the low post, Austin found himself forced to catch the ball farther and farther from basket. With the game on the line, Austin caught the ball 12 feet out on the corner of the floor. After his jumper clanged off the rim, the game went into overtime. 

After the game, Lampley noted the importance of getting low-post position against the dominant Bulldog frontcourt: “We were supposed to force them off the block from the get-go. They got good position and that is when they hurt us. Me and Solomon (Hughes) and Nick (Vander Laan) was told to keep them off the block, but we didn’t do a good job in the first half. In the late second half and overtime we did a good job getting in front of them.”  

After another Lampley basket, Forehan-Kelly and Joe Shipp drained another pair of three point field goals, and the Golden Bears took an 80-76 lead with 1:30 left. Mississippi State played a quick game of “how- quickly-can-we-foul,” and Cal nailed four straight foul shots to ice the game and preserve an 83-76 victory.