March 4, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) - Harper Kamp's face turned red and his eyes welled with tears while he described California's tumble from the Pac-12 tournament's top seed to possibly needing to play its way back into the NCAA tournament.
Leave it to the Bay Area rivalry to produce such emotions.
Chasson Randle scored 17 points, Aaron Bright had 12 points and hit some big free throws in the final minute and Stanford denied rival California a share of the league's regular-season title with a 75-70 victory on Sunday.
After losing at Colorado last week, the Golden Bears (23-8, 13-5) have suddenly dropped two straight for the first time all season and with little time to recoup.
The second-seeded Bears will play Thursday in Los Angeles against the winner of the Stanford-Arizona State game a day earlier.
"Our team just isn't focused enough. I don't think we realized what was on the line," Kamp said, his voice cracking. "This is unacceptable. Guys got to put aside whatever else is going on right now and realize that we worked too hard to let this slide. This is what we've been working for all our lives."
Stanford stole the spotlight in an instant.
Andrew Zimmermann added 13 points and made both of his 3-point attempts to help the Cardinal (20-10, 10-8) build a 15-point lead they never surrendered. Stanford also sealed a 20-win season for the first time since coach Johnny Dawkins' opening year in 2008-09 and enjoyed nothing more than shattering its cross-bay rival's championship dreams.
"They came in knowing that it meant more to them, but as a program, it meant a lot to us too," said Zimmermann, one of four Stanford seniors honored for the regular-season finale. "We needed to come in and build some momentum and prove to ourselves that we're one of the better teams in this conference."
At least for one day, they did.
Allen Crabbe scored 20 points and Kamp added 19 points and seven rebounds as the Bears fell short of sharing the conference crown with Washington and securing the top seed in the league tournament. Cal, which beat Stanford 69-59 in Berkeley on Jan. 29, has won only two of its last 11 trips to Maples Pavilion.
"We looked nervous. We played nervous. We acted nervous," said a frustrated Cal coach Mike Mongtomery, the Cardinal's coach from 1986-2004. "I'm not sure some of the guys knew how to handle what we were up against."
Senior Day still almost morphed into a Cardinal collapse.
Kamp converted a three-point play after getting held by Randle and finishing at the rim, and David Kravish followed with an alley-oop layup from Justin Cobbs that sliced Stanford's lead to three with 1:53 remaining.
Josh Owens missed the front-end of a one-and-one and fouled out going for the rebound. Crabbe made one of two free throws to pull the Bears within 72-70.
Bright made the first free throw on Stanford's next possession, then missed the second but corralled the rebound. Bright repeated the free throw-rebound combination twice more in stunning fashion, and the Cardinal held on for a victory that provided some much-needed momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament.
"We're playing with nothing to lose," Zimmermann said.
One of the worst starts of the year for Cal was just too much to overcome.
The two teams also had some heated exchanges typical of the long-running Bay Area rivalry. They combined for four technical fouls--two on each side--and stayed on edge for 40 minutes.
The first exchange started when Cobbs and Zimmermann bumped chests. Cardinal guard Jarrett Mann interceded, setting off a brief scrum that never escalated beyond a few shoves. Cobbs and Mann were called for technical fouls.
The emotions energized the home crowd during the delay--with cheers of "Go Stanford!" drowning out Bears fans--and triggered an 18-4 run by the Cardinal highlighted by a dazzling dribbling display, a 3-pointer and a short jumper by Randle to give Stanford a 21-8 lead.
"We just played really soft," Kamp said. "Not a single one of us was prepared to play."
The Bears made just three of their first 17 shots from the floor, and leader Jorge Gutierrez--who had just eight points, three rebounds and two assists--also picked up two fouls in the first 5:02, relegating him to the bench. Cal fell behind by 15 points, and officials whistled Gutierrez for a technical foul late in the half after Cal's fiery point guard shouted at Dwight Powell.
That exchange seemed to pull the Bears out of hibernation.
Cobbs made a jumper and Crabbe added a 3-pointer to cap a quick burst of offense that chopped Cal's deficit to only four late in the half. Crabbe's 3-pointer 14 seconds into the second half brought the Bears within 39-37, the closest they would get until 71 seconds remained.
"We've been at this point a few times this season, and this is the first time I feel we really took that step," Dawkins said. "And that was great for our guys to see, because now I think they realize how good they can be."