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Sampson dominates the paint in Cal victory

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Staff
Friday January 18, 2002

Freshman has 17 rebounds and 5 blocks 


The Cal Bears held Washington to just five field goals in the second half and freshman center Jamal Sampson set career highs for rebounds and blocks as Cal remained undefeated at home this season with a 62-50 win over the Huskies on Thursday at Haas Pavilion. 

Sampson had 17 rebounds and 5 blocks to go with 15 points in the victory. The rebounds were the second-most ever by a Cal freshman. Shareef Abdur-Raheem had 18 boards at Washington State on Jan. 25, 1996. 

Joe Shipp led the Bears (12-3, 3-2 Pac-10) with 18 points, but it was Sampson who was the game’s dominant force. He led Cal back from a 33-31 deficit at halftime, throwing an outlet pass to Shipp for the first score of the half, then getting the bucket and drawing a foul on a drive. He missed the free throw, but guard Dennis Gates tipped in the miss for a 37-35 lead, and the Huskies would never lead again. Although they would cut the Cal lead to 53-48 with just over two minutes left in the game on a Curtis Allen 3-pointer, the Bears hit their free throws down the stretch to pull away. 

The Bears didn’t exactly light it up on offense either, shooting just 33 percent on the night. Their defense carried them, as it has in most of their wins this season. 

“We’ve struggled on offense, and we’ve been winning ugly lately,” point guard Shantay Legans said. “I’m just waiting for everyone to play good at once.” 

Freshman forward Amit Tamir struggled mightily against the Huskies despite having a big size advantage for most of the night. With 6-foot-6 Grant Leep guarding him, he shot just 1-of-10 and didn’t get to the free-throw line in 26 minutes. He also had only 2 rebounds. 

“Amit got some good looks tonight, but they just didn’t go in,” Braun said. “He rushed a little bit. If he doesn’t get the shot, he has to get the foul.” 

“Sampson obviously had a big impact,” Washington head coach Bob Bender said. “He made us change what we did on defense, and he obviously affected our offense.” 

The Huskies (7-10, 1-6) shot just 16 percent from the field in the second half, as Bender’s only legitimate big man, 6-foot-11 David Dixon, got into foul trouble and played just 13 minutes in the half before fouling out. With no player taller than 6-foot-8 on the floor for Washington, Sampson dominated the boards on both ends and stifled the Huskies’ offense inside. 

Sampson admitted that he has been practicing harder lately because the Cal coaches have been on him about letting Cal’s wingmen like Brian Wethers out-rebound him.  

“I was sick of hearing the coaches say the big men weren’t rebounding,” Sampson said with a smile. “I won’t have to hear that tonight.” 

Cal head coach Ben Braun said Thursday’s effort should be a constant from the freshman. 

“I told Jamal he could have had 20 (rebounds) if he hadn’t let a couple get by him,” Braun said. “Before the game I asked him to get 10-plus tonight, and he did a little better than that.” 

The Huskies looked lost on offense for most of the game, with forward Doug Wrenn their only good threat. Wrenn scored a game-high 19 points, but shot just 6-of-18 from the floor and committed 7 turnovers, facing constant double-teams from the Bears. 

Point guard Allen was the only other Husky to score in double figures with 11 points, but he was invisible after scoring 8 points in the game’s first six minutes. He didn’t score again until his 3-pointer with two minutes left in the game, and had more turnovers than assists. 

Thursday also marked the return of Solomon Hughes to the Cal lineup. The senior center missed the last five games with a knee injury, but looked solid in his limited playing time against Washington, scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. 

“Solomon’s going to be fine,” Braun said. “He was a little sore, but he’s okay. I think he’ll get more minutes on Saturday (against Washington State).” 

With the return of Hughes, it will be interesting to see how Braun doles out the minutes between him, Sampson and Tamir. Tamir and Sampson have yet to play their best together in the same game, so Braun could choose to rotate them alongside Hughes.