Feb. 21, 2011
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - Jorge Gutierrez slipped through a side door and out of Haas Pavilion with family and friends, choosing not to speak to reporters about what had transpired.
After the best game of the junior guard's college career, nothing needed to be said.
Gutierrez scored a career-high 34 points, Markhuri Sanders-Frison had 12 points and California held on to beat UCLA 76-72 in overtime Sunday night to snap a four-game losing streak in thrilling fashion.
"He really is shy," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "But his family's here. I think he wanted to visit with his family. But I think there's a certain amount of not being comfortable in the situation like this. And that's OK with me if he can play like that."
The Golden Bears blew a 12-point lead and overcame Malcolm Lee's stunning buzzer-beater at the end of regulation to finally stop their longest losing skid of the season. Star freshman Allen Crabbe also returned after missing the last two games with a concussion to score eight points, grab seven rebounds and help Cal (14-13, 7-8 Pac-10) stay above .500.
Lee had 19 points and Tyler Honeycutt scored 14 points for the Bruins (19-8, 10-4), who saw their six-game winning streak end and Cal's fans storm the court in celebration afterward.
"Gutierrez absolutely killed us down the stretch," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "He was great. He just kept attacking our bigs, attacking our edges, attacking out plugs of screens. He was just driving, driving, driving."
Cal still needed every bit of Gutierrez's game to get back to winning.
After Gutierrez made four free throws to put Cal ahead by three, UCLA had only 6.6 seconds to take the ball the length of the court and send the game to overtime. And it was just enough time.
A scramble for the final shot landed in the hands of Lee near the top of the arc. His 3-pointer bounced off the front of the rim, straight up, then in, touching off a wild celebration with Lee leaping in the air and pumping his fist as teammates mobbed him near the opposite bench.
The home fans were in stunned silence, and Montgomery furiously pushed his chair on the bench in disbelief before gathering his players for the extra period. Montgomery said he was upset his players didn't foul before the shot.
In the end, it didn't matter.
Gutierrez, as he had done all game, answered by scoring Cal's first six points in overtime _ nine in all in the extra session _ and delivered the game-clinching assist on Brandon Smith's 3-pointer with 14 seconds left in overtime to help the defending Pac-10 champions to a much-needed victory.
"That's the best game I've ever seen Jorge play," Smith said.
Gutierrez chose not to speak to reporters afterward, a team spokesman said. The team later issued a statement by Gutierrez that read, "I was really tired, but I knew my team needed me. I knew they needed my help, so I just kept shooting it."
UCLA did all it could to overcome a horrendous start.
The Bruins had more turnovers (six) than points (four) in the first nine minutes, and a rowdy blue-and-gold clad crowd at Haas Pavilion kept them rattled. The home fans certainly had something to cheer about for the first time in a while.
The Bears broke out of their slump and sprinted out to a 15-4 lead that was capped by Gutierrez's 3-pointer. They led by as many as 12 points in the first half, showing the hustle and heart _ especially on defense, diving for loose balls and rebounds _ that had been missing the last two weeks.
The relentless pressure held the Bruins to 29 percent shooting in the opening half and led to several easy Cal buckets. Howland was furious at his team's sloppy play, stomping and screaming at his players, "Wake up!"
That took time.
By then it was too late.
The Bruins trailed 29-18 at halftime, switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone after the break, and the swap did wonders to pull them closer. UCLA began the second half on a 15-8 run to trim the deficit to four, keeping things close for a back-and-forth finish that was all for naught.
"It was a disappointing loss," Howland said. "I thought that in the first half we really came out flat, and that's totally on me. There's no way that should be."