In a special night at Haas Pavilion, Sean Lampley etched his name into the California record books, and the Bears followed his strong offensive lead to defeat Washington State, 84-65, on Saturday night.
Lampley scored 29 points for the Bears, to become Cal’s all-time leading scorer with 1,693. None was as anticipated as his short bank shot with 10:03 to play. When it fell, the crowd roared in appreciation. “I didn't know which shot was the one (record-breaker)," Lampley said. “I knew after that shot from the crowd reaction.”
After the game, Lampley was presented a game ball by Coach Ben Braun, and took a moment to celebrate with “The Bench,” Cal’s raucous student section. “I told him to enjoy this, and not to forget about the fans,” said Braun afterward.
The win solidifies the Bears’ (19-7) hold on fourth place in the Pac-10 and gives them 10 wins in the conference for the first time since the 1997 NCAA Tournament team. “We just need to focus on one game at a time, and let's see where everything falls,” Braun said.
Lampley’s record breaker came in the midst of a 22-5 second half run that saw the Bears turn up their defensive pressure and steadily pull away from the outmanned Cougars.
“We got a bit tired,” said Washington State Head Coach Paul Graham. “We’re just not as deep.” The Cougars were led by Milton Riley, who scored a career-high 21 points.
Lampley was active from the onset, opening the scoring with a baseline jumper. The senior forward then added a three pointer from the right side and threw a long pass to Joe Shipp, who completed the play with a one-handed dunk. Lampley used quickness against bigger opponents, strength against weaker ones, and size against smaller ones.
Graham said, “If he’s not (Pac-10 player of the Year), I don't think you'll talk about many more names before you get to his.”
Lampley also finished with eight rebounds and two assists.
Junior center Solomon Hughes also had a solid performance for Cal, scoring 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field. Hughes also had four rebounds.
“I thought Solomon played a good first half,” said Braun afterward.
“Without his points and rebounds early in the game, we're swimming upstream.” The Bears shot 54 percent from the field for the game.
The Cougars were able to match Cal basket for basket in a high scoring first half. Guards Jerry McNair and David Adams combined for seven three pointers and 26 first half points, and the Cougars went into halftime trailing by only three, 45-42. However, as the second half wore on, fatigue set in for the pair, and they were held to three points in the second half combined.
“They (Cal) just rotated more men at us, and we got a bit tired,” said McNair. The Cougars shot only 30 percent from the floor in the second half.
The Bears travel to Los Angeles next week; they take on UCLA Thursday night and USC Saturday evening. The games are big ones for Cal, who can improve their chances for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong showing.
“We have some big-time challenges coming up this week,” said Braun. “We know that UCLA will be ready for us because of what happened last time we played them.” The Bears defeated the Bruins, 92-63, earlier this month at Haas.