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Pressure defense frustrates California

Sunday, December 7, 2008 | 4:04 p.m. CST; updated 10:16 p.m. CST, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

COLUMBIA — California guards Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher had no idea what was coming.

A year ago, Christopher scored 18 points and Randle added 16 in the Golden Bears' 86-72 win over Missouri. On Sunday, they had no answer for Missouri's full-court pressure defense, and Missouri came away with a 93-66 win.

"I'm definitely surprised," Randle said. "Those guys pressured the ball. We were expecting them to trap, but we weren't prepared for it, so they just took over."

Christopher shot 3-for-15 from the field, and scored two points in the second half. Missouri held Randle six points below his season scoring average of 21. The defense wore him down, and the 90 percent foul shooter missed three of six attempts.

Missouri's backcourt of Zaire Taylor and J.T. Tiller started the game determined not to let California's backcourt have an impact. Taylor and Tiller didn't score many points, but they made a difference at the defensive end of the floor.

"I thought our defense was big, big in this game," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said.

Randle didn't score his first basket until nine minutes into the game. Christopher, California's second leading scorer this season, made his first basket nearly 15 minutes into the first half. By that time, Missouri had the game in hand.

"You got to give credit to guys like J.T. and Zaire, they really made Randle work for anything," senior forward DeMarre Carroll said. "The defense really showed."

With its top two scorers struggling to make plays, California's offense fell apart. The Golden Bears shot just 35.9 percent, including 28.6 percent in the second half.

Coming in, Taylor and Tiller had heard plenty of talk about California's backcourt, and they were determined to show they are just as good.

"I think me and J.T. were excited to take that challenge," Taylor said. "When I see a player like Randle and a player like Christopher, I'm like, 'Oh this is going to be exciting, I want to play them.'"

In addition to his defense, Tiller led the Tigers with seven assists, including a couple of nifty passes to Carroll on the fast break.

"I say we've got the best unselfish team in the country," Carroll said. "We want each other to shine."


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