Patrick Christopher gave his Cal basketball team the best of both worlds Tuesday night in the Golden Bears' 79-47 rout of Jacksonville.
Not only did the senior guard score a season-high 23 points, but he tacked on four steals, four rebounds and two assists.
"Patrick, for the first time, led our hustle chart with deflections and loose balls," coach Mike Montgomery said. "That was a plus."
The Bears (3-2) hope to get more of the same from Christopher today in their 2 p.m. nonconference game against Princeton (2-2) at Haas Pavilion.
While fellow senior guard Jerome Randle has been the Bears' top scorer the past two seasons, Christopher's performances are something of a barometer for the team's success:
The equation, of course, is not nearly that simple, but Christopher is a key element for the Bears, and they need him at his best.
The problem is opponents know that, and their defenses target Cal's best players. A week ago, at the Coaches vs. Cancer event at New York City's Madison Square Garden, Christopher was held to 12 points in each of the losses to Syracuse and Ohio State.
Factored into the big picture is the absence of senior Theo Robertson, who plays the opposite wing and is Cal's most-accurate 3-point shooter. Without him, even more attention was focused on Christopher.
"People start to realize why it's a team game and everybody kind of contributes to everybody else's success," Montgomery said. "If you've got three or four guys who can shoot, it opens things up for others. It's a lot harder when everybody's going to guard you, and you're not going to get a free look."
Robertson remains sidelined with a foot injury, but Christopher found a remedy against Jacksonville. He is inspired by Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who utilizes different aspects of his game to elevate his offensive performance.
"That's something I need to continue to work at," Christopher said. "Hey, I'm trying. I'm making a conscious effort. I'm trying."
Against Jacksonville, the perimeter shot also was falling. Just not immediately.
"He missed two (3-point) shots early you really don't see him miss," Montgomery said. "That's where you've got to be positive with a guy."
Christopher made his next four attempts from deep, getting a supportive slap on the rump from his coach after one of them.
Said Christopher, with a laugh, "I think he was just excited to see me make a jumper."
Note: Princeton features two starters with Bay Area roots. Junior guard Dan Mavraides, a graduate of Serra High in San Mateo, is the Tigers' leading scorer (12.8 ppg), while De La Salle grad Marcus Schroeder (6.0 ppg) also starts in the backcourt.