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Basketball: UCLA game thread

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FINAL SCORE: UCLA 72, Cal 68. Hi all, many apologies. The wireless system at Haas Pavilion crashed over and over tonight and I had no chance to return to this until now. Obviously, you all know what happened. So here are a few postgame observations and tidbits:

– The Bruins (22-7, 11-5) take over sole possession of second place, a game-and-a-half behind Washington (22-7, 13-4), which clinched no worse than a tie for the title with its win over Arizona.

– Cal (21-8, 10-6) drops into a tie for third place with Arizona State, which lost at Washington State.

– The Bears play Thursday at Arizona, then Saturday at ASU. Mathematically, they can still climb to as high as a No. 2 seed for the Pac-10 tournament, and the way I figure it, they cannot realistically drop any lower than a No. 4 seed. Even if they finish in a tie for fourth with Arizona at 10-8, the Bears would win the tiebreaker because the two teams split, and Cal swept first-place Washington. The only exception would be if Cal finished in a tie for fourth with Oregon State (which swept Cal), but that can only happpen if the Beavers win at UCLA and at USC. Unlikely. 

– Best game atmosphere of the season . . . maybe in a couple years. The Bears’ first sellout of the Mike Montgomery era, and he said afterward he hopes it becomes a more regular thing, but added the program has to earn this kind of response.

– The difference in the game, besides the seven-point play late in the first half, was UCLA’s poise and experience down the stretch. Particularly point guard Darren Collison, who looked every bit a player who’s been to three straight Final Fours. He scored 11 of his 22 points in the final 8 minutes, including two terrific baskets in the final minute-and-a-half. Montgomery and Jerome Randle both had high praise for Collison.  

– Montgomery had no complaint with the intentional foul call that led to UCLA’s seven-point play, but admitted it was tough to overcome and changed momentum. Aside from that play and 12 turnovers, Cal clearly outplayed the Bruins in the first half. But the Bears’ lead should have been bigger, and because the Bruins stayed close, they gave themselves the chance to take advantage later.

– Monty was pleased with the performance of Randle, who had 20 points and eight assists. Patrick Christopher added 16 points and Theo Robertson scored 14, 12 of them in the second half.

– This was a tough defeat for the Bears to swallow, but they played pretty well against a team that knows how to win big games.

– UCLA coach Ben Howland praised Cal afterward, saying he is convinced the Bears are an NCAA Tournament team that no one would want to face in the first round.

7:02 2nd H: UCLA leads 56-53 after back-to-back driving layups by Darren Collison. Cal has failed to score on its past four possessions. Collison’s 15 points lead all scorers.

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12:01 1st H: We’ll give this a try again . . . more wireless problems at Haas. (I’m blaming it on Digger Phelps). Cal leads 46-43 after UCLA scored the first seven points of the half for a 39-34 lead. Theo Robertson has eight points in the half for the Bears, including a 3-pointer with 15:30 left that put Cal in front 44-41.

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HALFTIME: Cal leads 34-32 after an unusual set of events. The Bears were up 28-21 after a 3-pointer by Randle with 4:49 left, but were playing a bit too loose and free with the ball. They had 12 turnovers in the first half. After a layup by Alfred Aboya and a turnover by Cal’s Harper Kamp, the Bruins got the floor scrambled, Cal lost track of things on defense, and disaster ensued. Nikola Dragovic got loose for a layup on the baseline and instead of letting him go, Theo Robertson wrapped his arms around him, got whistled for an intentional foul, and couldn’t even stop Dragovic from completing the layup. With 3:04 left, he then made two free throws, pulling the Bruins within one point. UCLA got possession and when Michael Roll hit a 3-pointer from the left corner, the visitors had completed a seven-point play and led 30-28. Randle’s twisting drive to the basket with 32 seconds left in the half put Cal back in front. Christopher sat for nearly 5 minutes after picking up his second foul, but shares Cal’s scoring lead with Randle, each with 11 points. Dragovic has nine points for the Bruins, who have missed five free throws but have just three TOs.

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TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES . . .  Will be right back.

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11:53 1st H: Cal leads 19-14 after Christopher made the first of two FTs. He was fouled hard by UCLA freshman Drew Gordon, the San Jose native, on a drive to the basket, and just smiled afterward. Cal seems to be embracing the moment so far, playing loose and playing well.

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12:40 1st H: Cal leads 18-14 and this place is loud. Probably louder than anytime this season just 7 minutes into a game. Randle just buried a long 3-pointer. Christopher already has 10 points.

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KJ IN THE HOUSE: Kevin Johnson, the honorable mayor of Sacramento, was just introduced.

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15:07 1st H: A great start for Cal, which led 11-5 after 3 1/2 minutes, but now is up just 11-9 after back-to-back turnovers. Patrick Christopher has eight points, including a pair of quick-release 3-pointers. The joint is packed and the atmosphere impressive.

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LINEUPS: Both teams are going with their usual starters. Cal: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, Jamal Boykin and Jordan Wilkes. UCLA: Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Josh Shipp, Nikola Dragovic and Alfred Aboya.

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WILKES RECOGNIZED: Cal just introduced fourth-year junior Jordan Wilkes, accompanied by his parents and coach Mike Mike Montgomery. Wilkes has announced he will leave Cal after earning his degree this spring.

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KNIGHT UPDATE: ESPN analyst and former Indiana coaching legend Bob Knight got some grief from fans for wearing a red sports shirt under his sweater at this morning’s “College Gameday” program at Haas Pavilion. Knight has amped it up a notch for tonight’s game, and is wearing a bright red sweater. Fans have just broken into a “take off that red shirt” chant.” Knight is unmoved.

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RECORDS: Cal is 21-7, 10-5 in Pac-10, UCLA also is 21-7, 10-5. They are tied for second place after Arizona State dropped out of the three-way tie following its overtime loss at Washington State. Tonight’s winner is alone in second entering the final week of the regular season.

Jeff Faraudo

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Sloppy game.

    I bet ESPN regrets putting this game on prime time.

  • Will

    Disappointing game, but we got the split that we needed. With both $C and Arizona losing today, I think we’re in a good position to still get a 4 seed (or higher) in the Pac-10 tourney, which should lock us up for the tournament even if we’re shaky in the desert.

  • MoreNCsarecoming

    Any team stupid enough to commit a potential 7 point play does not deserve to win and/or be in the Big Dance regardless of what Knight the schill says.

  • tom

    Can I add that I thought Bobby Knight was totally distasteful, lacking any class, showing no respect, and totally egotistical in wearing that red sweater tonight? I always hated the man. Now I double hate him. I hope some dumb AD hires him so he can prop his win totals back up – then we won’t have to suffer from the stupidity of the ESPN manager who hired him. It will be great to have him off the air, not have to listen to him. There’s a reason he was chased out (FIRED) of Indiana.

  • a

    Please can someone try to sort out the ‘basketball’ and ‘football’ feeds? Basketball items like this one keep on showing up when I click the football tab.

  • MikeD

    good thing BKnight didn’t beat the “shot fake” issue into the ground last night…

    Nice to see Harper Kamp get some love from the broadcast trio, I *always* enjoy watching his smart blue collar playing style – same for Gutierrez.

    What’s up with the trend of Christopher putting up a monster 1st half, and then disappearing in the 2nd? His air ball in the final few minutes was a killer, same for Theo – they gotta shoot em to make em, but those were some fugly shots.

    Came up out of the comfy chair a few times on those Randle shots from 3-4′ behind the arc, the 3 in the corner with under 30 seconds to go was a great off-balance shot and gave Cal a chance to get back to even.

    In the end it didn’t seem like they had an answer to shut down Collison by either Randle or Gutierrez. Great game, great national exposure for the Bears.