The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS – Saint Louis surprised itself with a 22-point victory over California.
Maurice Jeffers led a balanced attack with 18 points as the Billikens pulled away in the second half of an 88-66 final Wednesday night.
Marque Perry had 17 points and four assists and Justin Tatum added 12 points and five rebounds for the Billikens (3-1). Chris Braun had 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting and Jeffers was 7-for-11 as Saint Louis shot 55 percent.
“I was kind of shocked myself,” Perry said. “We thought it was going to be a real close game. We thought it was going to come down to the last few minutes.”
Saint Louis held California (1-2) to 36 percent shooting. Sean Lampley had 22 points and 11 rebounds, but made only five of 14 shots.
“We knew he was going to be a good player in the post,” Tatum said. “We tried to limit his catches. I just had to make him hit tough shots — nothing easy.”
California played for the first time in two weeks since a 57-54 loss at Texas. The Golden Bears had only two baskets in the final 10:52 after cutting the gap to four points at 54-50.
“We just didn’t execute at all,” Lampley said. “They capitalized on our mistakes and we turned the ball over too many times, including myself.”
Ryan Forehan-Kelly finally ended a drought of 10:21 with a 3-pointer with 30.8 seconds left and Donte Smith added a layup with seven seconds left.
“We thrive on defense,” Perry said. “We tried to bring it harder than we did the last game.”
Saint Louis ended the half on a 10-4 run, including seven points from Jeffers, who had 13 at the break. The Billikens also scored the first four points after the break for a 43-31 lead with 18:20 to play.
After the lead was whittled to four points, Saint Louis responded with a 16-5 run for a 70-55 lead with 5:05 left. Perry had six points in that run.
California also was scoreless the first 5:36 of the game0.
In Saint Louis’ first four games, four different players have led in scoring.
“We said we’d do it as a team,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “Our guys are committed to that.”