BERKELEY — Cal's men's basketball team achieved Sunday something it hadn't done in 62 years, winning its 11th game before the start of conference play.
Now, after a decisive 81-61 victory over Portland in the championship game of the Golden Bear Classic, the Bears set their sights on something they haven't done in three years.
Beginning Friday, when Arizona visits, the Bears (11-2) hope to show they are ready to make some noise in the Pac-10 Conference.
Just 6-12 and near-bottom dwellars in the conference the past two seasons, the Bears expect much more this year.
"I'm very confident about the way we're playing," junior point guard Jerome Randle said after being named MVP of the event for the second straight year. "I think we're going to do well in the Pac-10. We've got to buckle down and work on defense. If we do that and execute our plays, we'll be all right."
First-year coach Mike Montgomery said he is encouraged by his team's start against what he called a "reasonable" schedule.
"With a new coach coming in and no seniors, for us to be able to win 11 games against the competition was a pretty good body of work," he said. "We do some things well and we are going to cause some people some problems. At the same time, there are some areas that obviously are concerning."
Against Portland (7-6), the Bears' strengths and blemishes both were on display.
Cal's offense clicked from start to finish. The Bears shot 53.2 percent from the field, made their first five 3-point attempts and got to the foul line often enough to make 25 free throws.
At the same time, they surrendered 16 offensive rebounds against a big opponent.
"I think this was a really good game going into the Pac-10. They're a real physical team," said forward Jamal Boykin, who had his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds. "I thought it was a good that we were able to get ahead and keep the lead."
Cal never trailed after an early 13-0 burst that was fueled by two 3-pointers by Randle and one by Theo Robertson, and gave the Bears a 17-5 lead. Portland got as close as four points later in the half before a 10-0 run gave Cal control for good.
Randle had 16 points and four assists, finishing the two-day event with 31 points and 12 assists. He was joined on the all-tournament squad by Boykin and Robertson, who scored 16 points in the title game.
Patrick Christopher added 13 points for the Bears, who enter conference play riding a five-game winning streak.
Portland coach Eric Reveno, who played for Montgomery at Stanford and later was an assistant on his staff, said the Bears are comparable to Washington and Oregon, two Pac-10 teams the Pilots have played.
"I'm a little biased toward coach Montgomery, but they're not going to beat themselves," Reveno said. "If Cal continues to develop their interior, that will be key for them."
Notes: Cal won its own tournament for the 11th time in 16 years, the fourth time in the past five ... The Bears hadn't won as many as 11 games prior to the start of conference play since 1946-47 when they were 12-4 before PCC play on the way to a 20-11 record.
Contact Jeff Faraudo at email@example.com.