Center Markhuri Sanders-Frison had the flu and stayed home. Shooting guard Patrick Christopher got into early foul trouble and never found his groove. Jorge Gutierrez also was feeling a bit under the weather, and Theo Robertson and Harper Kamp were in street clothes with injuries.
The Cal basketball regulars left standing made sure none of it mattered Sunday against Princeton. Jerome Randle had 22 points and a season-high nine assists and Jamal Boykin matched his career-high with 22 points in an 81-60 victory at Haas Pavilion.
The Bears (4-2), even without a chunk of their roster, stifled Princeton's backdoor game and maintained a comfortable cushion most of the afternoon.
Max Zhang, the 7-foot-2 sophomore center from China, got his first start and contributed seven points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. Sophomore D.J. Seeley came off the bench to score a career-best seven points, and Omondi Amoke continued his recent strong play with eight rebounds, giving him 31 in three games.
"I was very happy to see a lot of different guys step up today, like Max, D.J., Brandon (Smith). That's really good for team morale," Boykin said.
"That's why it's a team game ... all hands on deck when you've got people down," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.
It hardly mattered that Christopher, the Bears' All-Pac-10 senior guard, had two early fouls and didn't score his first basket until sinking a 3-pointer with 8:26 left.
Cal shot 56
The Tigers (2-3) made just one of their first nine shots and had five turnovers on their first 15 possessions, by which point the Bears led 20-5.
Montgomery was happy with his club's defensive effort, noting the discouraging effect that Zhang had on the Tigers.
"I thought Max was really good," he said. "His size caused them problems inside."
At the other end of the floor, Boykin repeatedly found openings in the Princeton zone defense. He shot 11-for-14, seven of them jumpers.
"I love the midrange jump shot and being able to find holes where I could get an open shot; definitely I felt the zone worked to my favor," he said.
Randle, who skipped practice Thursday and Friday with flu symptoms, zipped through the Princeton defense, either finding open shots or creating for others. "He made some of the passes we've been trying to tell him were there," Montgomery said.
Gutierrez, who started the game, played just seven minutes, none in the second half. The short-term prognosis is worse for Sanders-Frison, who Montgomery said is unlikely to play Wednesday at New Mexico.
Robertson, who has sat out the past four games a sore right foot, is getting closer to being ready. "I think it's just a matter of time," Montgomery said. "The worst we could do is rush him out and have the thing go backward on him."
There is no timetable for the return of Kamp, yet to play while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
"We've just got to get healthy," Montgomery said. "We'll take our chances if we can get everybody on the floor."