Dec. 8, 2010BOX SCORENCAA SCOREBOARD
BERKELEY (AP) When San Diego State was ranked for the first time when the preseason poll came out, coach Steve Fisher told his players to wait until Dec. 9 to see how good they really were.How does the best start in the 90-year history of the school sound, coach?Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and D.J. Gay scored all 14 of his points in the second half to give No. 14 San Diego State its ninth straight win to open the season, 77-57 over California on Wednesday night."That means we've not fallen on our face, which sometimes happens," Fisher said. "You get rated and then you don't live up to what expectations are held by others. Our town, they are a bit unrealistic in terms of what they think we are. They think we could probably play the Celtics and if Kevin Garnett would not play we'd have a chance."While the Celtics might be a bit too much, the Aztecs (9-0) have won on the road already at the teams that won the Pac-10 and West Coast Conference regular season titles last season, having also beaten Gonzaga.The Aztecs surpassed their 1984-85 and 2006-07 teams that opened the season with eight straight wins and gave Fisher his best start in 20 full seasons as a head coach.San Diego State wore down the Golden Bears (5-3) with their athleticism in the second half to win a road game against a Pac-10 school for the first time since December 1982 at Oregon. They had lost 20 straight road games to Pac-10 teams and hadn't beaten any team on the road from one of the six big conferences since knocking off Northwestern in December 1996."We've proven that we have a very good team," Gay said. "The potential for this team is endless. We're going to be as good as we want to be and as hard as we work. We're just enjoying this ride and not ready for it to end."Jorge Gutierrez scored 19 points for the Bears and Harper Kamp added 18 for the Bears, who had won 22 straight nonconference home games since falling to Utah three years ago.The Aztecs took control of the game with a 15-2 run that began shortly after Cal big man Markhuri Sanders-Frison briefly went to the bench midway through the second half with a right leg injury.Gay started the spurt with two 3-pointers, James Rahon added two baskets and then Leonard hit a 3 from the corner to give San Diego State its first double-digit lead.Billy White's uncontested jam on a breakaway sent Cal coach Mike Montgomery into a stomping tirade as he lashed out at his team during a timeout for failing to get back on defense. The Aztecs led 58-44 at that point, which proved to be too large a hurdle for the Bears to overcome."We just needed to make more hustle plays and that's what we did," San Diego State guard Chase Tapley said. "We needed to make our energy better."White added another breakaway tomahawk dunk with to make it 67-52 just over 4 minutes to go, generating big cheers from the sizable contingent of Aztecs fans who made the trip north to watch their team beat the defending Pac-10 regular season champions.This version of the Bears isn't nearly as good, having lost Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin to graduation. But Cal was coming off a win at Iowa State and had also knocked off No. 21 Temple last month.But they proved to be no match for the Aztecs, who also got 15 points from James Rahon, 10 from White and shot 71 percent in the second half.The first half was far from an artistic masterpiece with White's airball on the opening possession for San Diego State an omen for things to come.Rahon, a transfer from nearby Santa Clara, made three straight 3-pointers midway through the half as the Aztecs took advantage of a long Cal shooting drought to turn a five-point deficit into a six-point lead."They kicked it out three times for wide open 3s," Montgomery said. "It was lost vision. We tried the zone. They have the reputation for not being a great zone team but they found the open guy and we didn't cover very well."The Bears missed 13 straight shots over a span of more than 10 minutes before Kamp's tip-in ended the 13-2 run for San Diego State. Long scoring droughts are not new for the Bears, who were held to five points in the first half of a loss to Notre Dame last month.This wasn't nearly as bad even though Cal had as many turnovers as baskets with seven and shot just 24.1 percent in the opening half. The Bears trailed only 28-26 at the break when Gutierrez made three free throws after being fouled by Mehdi Cheriet on a 3-pointer with 5.6 seconds to go.
NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”
NASHVILLE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley could be in line for supplemental discipline from the league, after earning a match penalty in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Nashville.
After absorbing a borderline hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame, with the Sharks trailing 5-2 at the time.
Naturally, there were differing opinions from the two head coaches on the play.
Pete DeBoer said: “When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth.”
Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters: "It's an ugly play. This isn't the wild, wild west. I mean, Calle hit him. We took a penalty. If we start doing that, we're in trouble, so hopefully it gets looked at."
Any player who earns a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner has ruled on the issue,” according to league rules.
In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.
Jarnkrok did not return after the punch, but told reporters after the game he felt “OK.”
"I feel pretty good," Jarnkrok said. "Obviously, I saw him coming. There were a couple other guys coming, too. I didn't really know what to do. He got in a good punch on me.”