"We're not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination but all you can do is ask the kids to try," Montgomery said.
Jerome Randle hit three key 3-pointers over the final 7:38 and finished with 24 points and six assists, and California survived a sloppy second half to defeat previously unbeaten DePaul 77-67 on Wednesday night.
Patrick Christopher scored 16 of his 23 points in the first half and also had eight rebounds, and Jamal Boykin added 10 points and seven boards for Cal.
Cal allowed the Blue Demons to get back within 52-50 on Dar Tucker's steal and layin with 8:21 to play after leading by 14 at halftime.
Christopher scored 12 of Cal's first 20 points, shooting 6-for-8 to start the game and making an ally-oop dunk off a nice pass from Randle. Christopher knocked down a 3 with 3:46 to play after Tucker pulled DePaul to 63-59 and scored another basket on Cal's next possession. Randle's third late 3 gave the Golden Bears a 71-65 lead, then he made two big free throws with 41 seconds left and another pair at 24.8.
"I hit one and I felt like I could probably hit another one," said Randle, who's from Chicago and was recruited by DePaul. "I didn't think about it. I just took the shot when I was open."
After the Blue Demons went ahead 17-12 on a 3-pointer by Jeremiah Kelly at the 11:50 mark of the first half, Cal (6-1) answered with a 10-0 burst and appeared headed for a rout. But scrappy DePaul (4-1) didn't go away, and Cal had to work for this one until the final buzzer to preserve its perfect record at home in Haas Pavilion.
The Bears bounced back with a hard-fought victory on the heels of their first loss in Montgomery's tenure to Florida State on Saturday after an impressive 73-55 victory over UNLV a day earlier. This was Cal's only home contest during a five-game stretch.
"We floundered around a little bit," Montgomery said. "Yet we were able to make plays at the end."
DePaul had been off to its best start since the 2002-03 season and missed a chance to move to 5-0 for the first time since 1986-87. It didn't help the Blue Demons went a dismal 10-for-21 from the free-throw line.
"We settled for shots instead of earning the ones we had really looked to get," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "Obviously you can't win on the road shooting 10-for-21 at the free throw line."
Tucker, who consistently shoots with both hands and came in averaging a team-best 20.8 points per game, missed eight of his first 11 field-goal tries but played well in the second half on the way to 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting.
Mac Koshwal had 13 points and seven rebounds and Will Walker added 11 points for the Blue Demons in their first visit to Berkeley. They will come back to the state of California later this month for the Wooden Classic in Anaheim.
The schools are now even at 3-3 in all-time meetings. The last matchup came on Dec. 23, 2006, a 90-62 DePaul victory in Rosemont, Ill.
Cal held a public memorial for Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell nearby before the game. Newell died Nov. 17 at age 93. The celebration of Newell's life brought back many ex-Bear greats who stuck around for the game.