By Jeff Faraudo
PULLMAN, Wash. — For eight minutes Thursday night, the Cal basketball team was almost perfect.
That didn't last, but Jerome Randle never stopped delivering plays that made the Washington State crowd nuts in a 93-88 Cal victory.
The Bears made 11 of their first 14 shots — six of them 3-pointers — and forged a 28-8 lead over Washington State that seemed to good to be true.
Turned out it was.
Cal's early 20-point lead was down to four by halftime, and the Cougars scrambled to within five points in the final minute. But Randle never let the hosts get the upper hand, scoring 28 of his career-high 39 points in the second half.
By the time it was over, one fan in the WSU student section simply screamed, "Randle, I hate you."
Randle shot 7-for-12 from 3-point range, 10-for-11 from the free-throw line and had nine assists, all of them in the first half. He played all 40 minutes and even had five rebounds.
"Coach told us the seniors needed to step up," Randle said. "I just took that challenge."
"He's a great player," WSU coach Ken Bone said.
Randle's point total was the most by a Cal player since Leon Powe had 41 against Oregon in the 2006 Pac-10 tournament.
It was the latest in a long tradition of bizarre Cal games at Washington State, but at the end of the day the Bears (11-5, 3-1) found themselves alone in first place in the Pac-10 Conference after
Patrick Christopher scored 21 points, Jamal Boykin had 16 and Theo Robertson 13, meaning Cal's four senior starters combined for 89 points. Freshman Reggie Moore scored 25 for the Cougars (12-5, 2-3).
After six years of low-scoring games against WSU teams coached by Dick and Tony Bennett, the Bears logged their highest point total in Pullman since a 102-76 win during the 1970-71 season.
Cal cranked up its running game early, using defensive stops to create open shots in transition. With the WSU defense in disarray, the Bears made six 3-pointers in a span of 3 minutes, 47 seconds — three by Robertson, two by Randle and one by Christopher.
When Randle hit a jumper from just inside the arc with 12:03 left in the half, Cal was shooting 78.6 percent and held a 28-8 lead. The Bears had an 11-2 rebounding edge, had committed just one turnover and held the Cougars to 3-for-13 shooting.
"I don't think there's anyone who can stop us in transition," Randle said.
But things haven't always gone according to script in this building for the Bears. In 1994, they wasted a 38-point performance by Lamond Murray and lost a chance to earn a tie for the conference title on the final day of the season. In '97. Ed Gray scored a Cal record 48 points, then broke his foot in the final minutes of a Bears loss.
WSU scrambled back in this one, outscoring the Bears 29-13 the rest of the half to get within 41-37.
"Once again, we didn't play defense. And that's a problem," Christopher said. "What if we don't shoot that well?"
Cal composed itself early in the second half of its first conference road game, rebuilding the lead to 73-58 with 8:30 left. WSU got no closer than the final five-point margin, and coach Mike Montgomery was willing to take it.
"Any road win is huge," he said. "I'd have hated to be heading to Washington (Saturday) coming off a loss."
Note: Center Markhuri Sanders-Frison did not play because of back spasms. He is questionable for Saturday's game at Washington. ... Sophomore forward Omondi Amoke made his first career start as the Bears went to a smaller lineup. ... Freshman Bak Bak did not make the trip because of eligibility issues.
Saturday, at Washington, 11:30 a.m.