Feb. 4, 2011
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - With a little help from the rest of the conference and a timely shot by a struggling freshman, California's chances of defending its Pac-10 title improved dramatically and quickly.
Allen Crabbe shook off a terrible shooting night to score seven points down the stretch, including a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left, and California hung on to beat Arizona State 66-62 on Thursday night.
Coupled with Washington's loss to Oregon State and Washington State's loss to Oregon, the Golden Bears leapfrogged the Cougars and moved into sole possession of fourth place, a game out of second and just two behind front-running Arizona.
"That's pretty good," said Jorge Gutierrez, who had 18 points and six assists while leading Cal to its fourth straight win. "We're just working hard. We can't think about the past and we can't think about the future. We just need to think about the next game."
That had become a tough chore for the Bears, who nearly played their way out of the title chase before the conference schedule reached the midway point. California dropped four of its first six conference games and were teetering on the brink of irrelavance before turning things around.
The win over the Sun Devils was just the latest step, though it wasn't easy.
Crabbe, who reached double figures in his previous eight games, was struggling most of the night. He missed eight of his first nine shots and committed what nearly was a costly turnover with just over a minute to play before making the clinching shot after Gutierrez dished the ball while stumbling in traffic.
Crabbe finished with 10 points for the Golden Bears (13-9, 6-4 Pac-10).
"I knew the shot clock was at like two seconds so I just tried to get it up," Crabbe said. "I just kept telling myself that one of them's going to have to fall before the night's over."
Trent Lockett had 18 points for Arizona State (9-13, 1-9), but had his potential go-ahead shot blocked by Kamp with 46 seconds left. The Sun Devils scored just two points over the final 5:41 after taking a 60-54 lead.
"I think during that stretch we missed three free throws," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "We didn't make the plays we needed to and they did."
The wild finish was just as dramatic as the ending between these two teams earlier this season. In that one on Jan. 8, California led the entire way before holding off a late 3-point barrage by Arizona State and winning 65-61 in Tempe, Ariz.
There wasn't much difference in the rematch.
The Bears led early and stayed in control most of the evening before the Sun Devils' offense warmed up late to make things interesting.
Arizona State went on an 11-4 run to take a 50-46 lead early in the second half and later made three straight 3-pointers in a 59-second span to go up 59-52.
Crabbe, averaging 17.4 points over his previous eight games, took over for Cal after that. He made four free throws over the next 1:04. After Smith's only 3-pointer gave the Bears a 61-60 lead, Gutierrez and Lockett traded free throws before Crabbe's game-clincher.
"When you're putting up the numbers that (Crabbe) has, people are going to start defending you," Montgomery said. "He was having a hard time getting shots but he found a good time to make a big one at the end. Had not Jorge kind of rolled the ball across the lane they might have figured out they needed to defend him."
Arizona State has lost six straight and hasn't won in the Pac-10 since beating Oregon on Jan. 1.
Gutierrez scored nine of California's first 13 points and the Bears overcame some early struggles from the perimeter to take a 22-13 lead.
It didn't take long for Arizona State to get back in it. The Sun Devils, who were shooting 49.0 percent (25 of 51) from beyond the arc over their previous three games, stormed back over the next nine minutes and went on a 17-6 run sparked by three 3-pointers.
McMillan, who did not play in the January loss to Cal because of a groin injury, had three 3s in the first half, including a 24-footer that gave Arizona State a 30-28 lead with four minutes remaining.
The Sun Devils held onto the lead until Brandon Smith scored on a layup and Gutierrez added a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left to give the Bears a 38-36 edge at halftime.