Cal senior Jerome Randle apologized for playing hurt Saturday in a Pac-10 loss at Washington, but his self-confidence will be as robust as ever tonight when the Golden Bears face Oregon at Haas Pavilion.
"I feel like I'm better than any guard in this league," Randle said. "That's just the confidence I have in myself."
Randle reported his right knee is feeling stronger, but that he didn't tell his coaches how much it hurt after Reggie Moore stepped on him with 16 seconds left in Thursday's victory at Washington State.
"And that was a bad move for me," Randle said. "I shouldn't have played. My mom told me I shouldn't have played, and I shouldn't have. It came back to bite me."
Two nights after scoring a career-high 39 points and dishing nine assists against the Cougars, the Bears' point guard had a season-low five points and eight turnovers as Cal (11-6, 3-2) fell out of first place with an 84-69 loss to the Huskies.
"I really do apologize for going out there and not doing anything," said Randle, who played because he believed it gave his team the best chance to win.
Teammate Patrick Christopher expects Randle to be ready against the Ducks (10-7, 2-3).
"He's a person that's always willing to prove someone wrong. That's what makes him who he is," Christopher said. "I look forward to him having a good game and bouncing back."
For Randle, averaging 19.5 points per game, this will be his latest matchup with longtime Midwest rival, Oregon senior guard Tajuan Porter.
At 5-foot-6, Porter is one of the few players in the Pac-10 shorter than the 5-8 Randle. A lightning-quick native of Detroit, Porter took the conference by storm as a freshman, averaging 14.6 points per game, including 38 against Portland State in his third college contest.
Now seniors, Porter is the Pac-10's active career scoring leader with 1,601 points and Randle, who grew up in Chicago, is second at 1,515.
"He's a great shooter," Randle said of Porter. "If he's on, he's really on. If he's off, he's really off. It's the same with me."
Actually, over the past two seasons, Randle is converting 44.6 percent from 3-point range, compared to 37.5 percent for Porter.
Despite inconsistent play, Porter has 314 career 3-point baskets and is on pace to break the Pac-10 record. He had six baskets from beyond the arc in a 31-point effort at Washington State on New Year's Eve, but he has shot just 9-for-38 from the field with 13 turnovers during the Ducks' current three-game losing streak.
"I have a bundle of respect for Tajuan," said Randle, aware of the recent shooting slump that has dropped Porter's scoring average to 12.8 points per game. "It's always temporary for him. He'll always bounce back."
Oregon coach Ernie Kent said Porter is trying too hard after a December ankle injury. Said Kent: "He's just got to relax and let the game come to him."
That's a lesson Randle gradually has embraced. Early in his college career he often tried showing off his quickness or ballhandling with risky plays. Those old habits only occasionally surface these days.
"I thought everything was personal, but it's not. I understand that. I'm learning the game," Randle said. "It's not about personal battles."
In fact, Randle said he would've been thrilled if he'd scored fewer points but wound up with 17 assists at Washington State. Cal coach Mike Montgomery credits Randle with trying hard to develop his total game.
"Definitely, I take pride in it," Randle said. "I have a lot of other scorers on this team. I have to figure out how to get them involved and get mine, as well. That just comes with being patient."
Oregon, 7:30 p.m.