Here is the last thing anyone expected from Jorge Gutierrez: The Cal junior guard is the leading scorer in the Pac-10 for the month of February.
Known mostly for his hustle, feistiness and defensive play his first two seasons, Gutierrez is averaging 22.2 points over six games this month after his career-high 34-point effort against UCLA.
That's a higher February average than Arizona's Derrick Williams, Washington State's Klay Thompson or anyone else in the Pac-10.
Coach Mike Montgomery said the Bears were just looking for a player who would compete when he made the Chihuahua, Mexico, native his first recruit three years ago.
"He's more of a glue guy. I think he's had to assume more of a scoring role than he's comfortable with," Montgomery said. "He's obviously done a great job, but I don't think that's what he wants to do."
What Gutierrez wants to do is whatever is necessary.
"The team needed me to score," said Gutierrez, who averaged 5.1 points per game his first two seasons at Cal. "I don't mind scoring. I don't think anybody does."
Still, Gutierrez's recent hot streak points to the development of his all-around game. For the season, he averages 14.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game and is third in the conference in free throws made with 134.
"He's proven to be a better scorer than we expected," Montgomery said.
The Bears (14-13, 7-8 Pac-10) visit Oregon (14-12, 7-7) at Matthew
"His instincts are really good. He just continues to improve his skill level," Altman said. "He's an awfully good player."
Even UCLA coach Ben Howland was stunned when Gutierrez repeatedly drove through the heart of his team's defense to score nine points in the overtime period of Cal's 76-72 win.
"He did a good job attacking our bigs, just going right at them," said Howland, adding he will seriously consider Gutierrez for All-Pac-10 honors.
"I was getting to the basket pretty easy, and I was either scoring or passing the ball to my teammates, so I just kept doing it," Gutierrez explained.
Altman said he was impressed by more than Gutierrez's scoring total against the Bruins.
"It was the way he controlled the game with his steals, getting into the paint and creating for his teammates," said Altman, calling Gutierrez's performance one of the best of the season in the Pac-10.
Cal senior Markhuri Sanders-Frison said the ferocity Gutierrez brings to the game makes him less than popular with some opponents.
"Night in and night out, guys hate him," the Bears center said. "We love him."
Sanders-Frison said he's not sure what makes Gutierrez tick. "Whatever it is, I love it. If he's going, we're going," Sanders-Frison said. "There's no one in the league like him at all, no one close."
Notes: Montgomery was reprimanded by the Pac-10 for negative remarks he made about the officiating on his postgame radio show (910-AM) after the Bears' losses at Washington and Washington State two weeks ago. Commissioner Larry Scott said the conference has rules that prohibit coaches from making public comments about officiating. A Cal spokesman said Montgomery had no comment on the reprimand. "... Tipoff for Cal's regular-season home finale against Stanford on March 5 is set for 4 p.m. The game will be televised on CSNCA.