Allen Crabbe pleased the crowd with his 3-point shooting and
Justin Cobbs followed up his Pac-12 Player of the Week efforts with seven
assists, but the final analysis of Cal's 64-46 win over Utah on Thursday night
came down to defense - specifically, defending the paint.
The Bears continued their recent strong defensive play,
holding the Utes to 29 percent floor shooting. That included an 11-minute
stretch in which the Utes made just one field goal. During that span, Cal
outscored Utah 24-2 to turn a 22-14 deficit into a 38-24 advantage with 13:57
And it was Cal's interior players - most notably, Richard
Solomon - that spearheaded the defensive effort. Solomon silenced Utah center
Jason Washburn, holding him to our points on 2-for-9 shooting. Washburn entered
the night ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (57.3%) and
averaging 11.7 points per game.
David Kravish and Robert Thurman also helped out on the
defensive effort inside. Utah scored just 16 points in the paint, and a handful
of those points came late in the game when the outcome was decided.
"I feel like they are playing with a lot more confidence for
us," Crabbe said of Cal's post players. "Things are going well or them on
offense and it carries over to their defense. They're making their presence
felt on the defensive side."
Thursday's win was the sixth in a row for the Bears, and
eighth in their past nine games. The constant during the hot streak has been
defense, especially in the past three games when Cal is holding opponents to
30.4 percent floor shooting. In two of the last three games, the Bears have
held their opponent to 46 points, a season-best.
"I think this team has developed a defensive mindset," Cobbs
said. "We don't rely on our offense to win games. We know it's important to
play defense. We're maturing a lot and taking pride in the defense and getting
Although the Utes entered the night 3-11 in Pac-12 play, they
have been extremely competitive night in and night out. They've lost five
conference games by five points or less. Cal's 18-point win resulted in Utah's
second-worst loss of the season.
"Nobody has beaten Utah like that," Montgomery said. "Utah
has been very difficult to get away from. It's great that we were able to do
The win allowed the Bears to keep pace with the leaders in
the Pac-12. At 11-5 in conference play (19-9 overall), Cal is one game behind
UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-12 standings. The Ducks were playing Oregon State
later Thursday night.
Cal has two regular season games remaining - Saturday against
Colorado and Wednesday against Stanford. Both games are at Haas Pavilion. If
the Bears can win both and get some help around the conference, they could win
their second Pac-12 title in the past four years.
"We know we have two games left and we're in second place,"
Cobbs said. "If we handle our business and get two wins, the rest is out of our
The Bears held Utah to 29 percent floor shooting to win their sixth in a row and eighth out of their past nine games. The win puts the pressure on the other contenders in the Pac-12 to keep winning. Cal now is 19-9, 11-5 in conference play.
Allen Crabbe led the Bears with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Cobbs had 12 points and seven assists and Tyrone Wallace had 11 points and five rebounds. Meanwhile, Richard Solomon was a force inside defensively, silencing the Utes' inside game.
Next up for the Bears: A big one Saturday afternoon against Colorado.
The Bears held Utah two just one field goal during the final 6:33 and lead by 10 at the break. After trailing 22-14, the Bears went on a 20-2 run to end the first half, forcing five turnovers and otherwise playing smothering defense. Allen Crabbe has 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bears, while point guard Justin Cobbs has six assists.
The stretch drive begins tonight at Haas Pavilion. In about 30 minutes, the Bears are hosting the Utah Utes, the first off three home games in a row to close out the regular season. Cal still has its eye on a Pac-12 championship, and a win tonight will keep the Bears firmly in the mix. Stay tuned throughout the night for updates, here and on Twitter (@CalBearBlog).
Haas Pavilion provides a great environment for college
basketball, and things have fallen into place nicely for Cal's basketball arena
to be a special place during the final week of the regular season.
Because of a hot streak during the second half of the season
- the Bears have won five in a row and seven of their last eight - Cal has
firmly put itself in the race to win its second Pac-12 regular season
championship in the last four years. The Bears are battling Oregon, UCLA and
Arizona for the conference crown.
The first ingredient to a Cal championship will be to win
its final three regular season games. All three of those games are at Haas
Pavilion, beginning Thursday night against Utah.
"There's going to be a lot of hype in Haas," Cal forward
Robert Thurman said. "I think Haas is going to be rocking. I think there are
going to be a lot of people here. The energy is going to be great."
Following Thursday's matchup against Utah, the Bears then
host Colorado on Saturday and rival Stanford in their regular season finale
Cal currently stands in fourth place in the Pac-12
standings, but only one game behind conference co-leaders Oregon and UCLA. The
Bears are also one-half game behind Arizona, which lost to USC on Wednesday
night. Cal owns the tiebreak against all three of the other teams vying for the
UCLA escaped Arizona State in overtime Wednesday night but
still has to play Arizona on Saturday. Two of Oregon's final three games are on
the road, including a tough one at Colorado next weekend.
"We just have to stay focused for one more week and one day,"
Cal point guard Justin Cobbs said at Tuesday's weekly press conference. "If we
win those three games, the rest is out of our hands. If we take care of our
business, hopefully we put ourselves in great position to win a Pac-12
The Bears were in the race for the Pac-12 title last season
before coming up short at the end. But this year, as the past eight games
suggest, Cal is heading into the stretch run playing its best basketball of the
"Last year, I think we peaked too early," Thurman said. "Now,
I think we are peaking at the right time. I think we just need to keep that
momentum. I think we're going to come out and play really hard."
Cal's women's basketball team can't afford to play without
starting point guard Brittany Boyd for an extended period of time. But the sixth-ranked
Bears showed Friday night what they have at other times this season - they are
built to withstand a hiccup or two in their playing rotation.
Boyd missed Friday's game against Oregon with an injured
groin, but Cal received important contributions from Afure Jemerigbe and
Mikayla Lyles in a 77-55 victory in front of 2,673 at Haas Pavilion.
Jemerigbe had 13 points, six rebounds and a career-high four
assists without committing a turnover in 32 minutes. Lyles, meanwhile, played a
season-high 25 minutes and had eight points and five rebounds.
"I thought a lot of people stepped up," Cal coach Lindsay
Gottlieb said. "Several people did the small individual things to lead to the
better collective effort. We really showed we are balanced and versatile."
Jemerigbe has started all 26 games this season, but with
stars like Layshia Clarendon, Gennifer Brandon and Boyd, she doesn't always
grab many of the headlines. But the former prep All-American is a glue player
that does a little bit of everything for the Bears.
"With Brittany out, I knew I had to step up," Jemerigbe
said. "The coaches wanted everyone to step up. The token was given to me and I
stepped up a little bit."
Lyles also made a huge difference. She came in averaging
just 11.4 minutes per game but was a steadying force on the floor throughout
the evening. Lyles has produced before this season - she had 14 points and
seven rebounds in the Bears' 67-55 win over Stanford on Jan. 13.
"Mikayla always gives us a lift," Gottlieb said. "The way
this team is built, we can withstand someone being out or someone having a bad
shooting night. Mik is the same whether she plays two minutes or 25 minutes. I
talked to Mik after shootaround, not to tell her she's going to play more
minutes, but that she needs to be really dialed in on Oregon. Mik is such a leader
that she probably knew that meant more minutes for her."
For a first-place team playing a last-place team, the first
half was a little too close for comfort for the Bears. After racing out to a
10-0 lead, Cal trailed 19-18 with 3:49 left before halftime. But the Bears then
went on a 12-2 run to take a 30-21 lead at the break. Lyles hit a pair of
3-pointers during the stretch.
The Ducks (4-23, 2-13) were still within striking distance
at 37-30 with 16:54 remaining, but the Bears went on a 10-0 run to take
"I was really happy with our second half," Gottlieb said. "I
loved the way we started. I thought we didn't miss a beat. Then we went into a
shooting drought, and that zapped our energy a bit. But I thought we responded
and came out with great energy in the second half, and with or team great
energy often leads to good things happening."
The Bears went on a 10-0 run early in the second half and went on to a comfortable 77-55 win over the Ducks. Layshia Clarendon led Cal with 14 points, while Afure Jemerigbe had one of her best all-around games of the season with 13 points, six rebounds, a career-high our assists and no turnovers.
Talia Caldwell had 10 points and 10 rebounds or Cal (24-2, 13-1). Gennifer Brandon added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Without starting point guard Brittany Boyd, junior guard Mikayla Lyles assumed a bigger role and finished with eight points and five rebounds in a season-high 25 minutes. Lyles entered the game averaging 11.4 minutes per game.
A 12-3 run helped the sixth-ranked Bears take a 30-21 lead into the half. Without starting point guard Brittany Boyd, Cal's offense is struggling a bit. But the Bears got hot near the end off the first half, with Mikayla Lyles hitting two clutch 3-pointers and Layshia Clarendon scoring five points to help erase a 19-18 deficit.
A win tonight would keep the Bears in at least a tie atop the Pac-12 standings. Cal and Stanford enter tonight both with 13-1 records in conference play. Oregon, meanwhile, is last in the Pac-12 standings at 2-12 (4-22 overall). The Ducks have beaten Washington State twice this season and lost to everyone else in conference play.
Senior Layshia Clarendon leads the Bears at the half with 12 points. Gennifer Brandon has eight rebounds.
Eight straight wins. The last four by double-digits. Three
over nationally ranked teams. Twenty wins overall.
Like most coaches, Lindsay Gottlieb wants more. The No. 6 Bears
committed 18 turnovers during their 66-53 win over Arizona State on Friday
night. They missed five free throws. Their energy level wasn't always at
If Cal is hitting its stride, Gottlieb wants it to be a sprint.
But the second-year coach does admit that when her team
dictates the style of a game, the Bears tend to get the results they want.
"Of course, we respect all of our opponents, but I think we
understand if we do the things we do well, it's going to produce results,"
Gottlieb said. "I think our players are buying into that. From a coaching
perspective, you always want to do things better. You want to keep improving
and correct your weaknesses. But I think our players embrace what we do well,
and that gives us a lot of positive momentum. And in women's basketball,
confidence is huge."
And confidence should be high for the Bears (20-2, 10-1
Pac-12). They negotiated the toughest part of their schedule - an eight-game
stretch to begin the conference season that included five ranked opponents - by
going 7-1. And the only team they lost to - Stanford - they ended up beating
four days later. They are comfortably handling the teams they should handle and
remain tied for first place in the Pac-12 standings. They only face one ore
ranked opponent the rest of the regular season.
"Even with our wins, we think we should be doing better,"
said senior guard Layshia Clarendon, who led the Bears on Friday with 18
points. "But it's definitely better than last year, when we learned our lessons
in losses instead of wins. But we're still critical. Our energy dragged
tonight. There are things the fans don't see. We know internally we are always
trying to be better every single game."
Gennifer Brandon had a double-double for the Bears with 10
points and 15 rebounds, her 12th double-double this season and 27th
of her career. Brittany Boyd had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
And it was a special night for senior Talia Caldwell. When
she drained two free throws with 1:46 left in the first half, she became the 23rd
Cal women's basketball player ever to score 1,000 career points. Caldwell
finished with 14.
"That's cool," Caldwell said. "I appreciate being able to
play since my freshman year. A lot of great players don't get the opportunity
to play their freshman year. I'm thankful I was part of the rotation."
There was also a milestone for Clarendon, who moved into
eighth place on Cal's all-time scoring list with 1,560 points. It's been a big
week for Clarendon, who earlier was named one of 10 finalists for the Senior
CLASS Award and a midseason candidate for the Wade Trophy along with Brandon.
"I have homework due tomorrow," Clarendon said when asked to
recap her week. "I'm really happy because it says 'California' on the bottom.
The team is starting to get national recognition. I'm really happy Cal is
rolling along. I've seen the program grow. It's exciting."
Layshia Clarendon had 18 points, Gennifer Brandon had her 12th double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds and Brittany Boyd finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Bears cruised in the second half to the win. The Bears have now won seven in a row and improved to 20-2 overall, 10-1 in the conference. Cal remains in a first-place tie with Stanford atop the Pac-12 standings.
The Bears have also won their last four games by double-digits.
The Bears held Arizona St. to 38 percent floor shooting and Layshia Clarendon has 12 points as Cal holds a 36-25 advantage at the half. Cal led 21-8 with 9:35 left but the Sun Devils went on a 9-2 run to cut it to 23-17 with 6:59 left. Arizona St. kept the deficit within single-digits for most of the remainder of the first half but the Bears scored five points in a row to establish a 34-21 advantage after a 3-pointer by Brittany Boyd with 1:22 left.
Boyd has eight points, six rebounds and three assists.
With 1:46 left in the first half, senior Talia Caldwell made two free throws to become the 23rd Cal women's basketball player ever to score 1,000 career points.
One other note: Forward Reshanda Gray is missing her third straight game with a hamstring injury.
About 45 minutes away from tipoff here at Haas Pavilion as the Bears go for their seventh straight victory and look to maintain at least a share of first place in the Pac-12 standings. A win would also be No. 20 on the season for Cal and match the program's best start ever at 20-2.
Special night as it's the "Play 4 Kay Pink Game" designed to raise Breast Cancer awareness. Cal's players made custom T-shirts that will be part of a silent auction during the first half. There also will be plenty of pink in the arena has the first 1,000 fans are being issued pink T-shirts.
Stay tuned throughout the night and on Twitter (@CalBearBlog) for updates.
The women's basketball team gathered in the Haas Pavilion club room this afternoon to decorate T-shirts for this Friday's "Pink Game" against Arizona State. Cal's players will wear the T-shirts during warm-ups and then they will be available during a silent auction in the first half. The fan with the winning bid will have the player belonging to the winning T-shirt present it to him or her after the game.