Basketball: A four-way logjam at the top of Pac-12

Washington and Colorado have moved into a four-way tie for first place with Cal and Oregon . . .

   — Washington 60, Arizona State 54: Tony Wroten Jr. scored 22 points and C.J. Wilcox, back in action after missing three games with a three fracture in his hip, made four free throws in the final 27 seconds for the visiting Huskies (13-7, 6-2). UW trailed 24-22 at halftime, then outscored the Sun Devils (6-14, 2-6) 14-1 to open the second half. Freshman Jonathan Gilling scored a career-high 20 points, including five 3-pointers, for ASU.

   — Colorado 76, USC 50: Andre Roberson had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season and the Buffaloes (14-6, 6-2)improved to 12-1 at Boulder got their first road victory in Pac-12 play.  The Trojans (5-16, 0-8) shot 32 percent and dropped their ninth straight game. 

   — UCLA 76, Utah 49: Joshua Smith scored 14 points and David Wear and Jerime Anerson each added 13 for the Bruins (11-9, 4-4). The Utes (5-15, 2-6) shot 37 percent and remain winless at 0-7 on the road.

   — Arizona 85, Washington State 61: Kyle Fogg scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half and Solomon Hill had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (14-7, 5-3). The visiting Cougars (11-9, 3-5), fresh off a home sweep of Stanford and Cal, fell to 0-4 on the road in the Pac-12. Brock Motum scored 18 points but shot just 4 for 13.

Elsewhere . . .

   — Saint Mary’s College (20-2, 9-0 WCC) beat Loyola Marymount 71-64 in Los Angeles, reaching 20 wins earlier than any time in school history. The Gaels have won 11 in a row and are 126-31 since the start of the 2007-08 season.


Basketball: How big is basketball Big Game?

Mike Montgomery will coach in his 44th basketball Big Game on Sunday at Haas Pavilion. So he ought to know just how big the game really is.

Not surprisingly, Monty downplays the whole thing. He is not a hype and hoopla guy.

“Even across the Bay, I felt it was more manageable if you just allowed it to be a game than to make more out of it. Because then it hurts more if you lose,” he said of his 18 seasons at rival Stanford. “You tried not to get too over-the-top with the whole thing.”

Besides, Montgomery said, this is different than THE Big Game.

“It’s not like football. This doesn’t have the same attention, it doesn’t have the same significance,” he said. “It’s not the Big Game where you have luncheons six days a week. It’s just not. It’s two games, it’s in the conference and right now we’re both at the top and that makes it significant.”

But for fans — and even players — this isn’t just another game, just another opponent.

“I definitely feel it’s a big game for us,” Cal sophomore Allen Crabbe said this week. “It’s the rivalry. I’m pretty sure everyone’s going to be pumped up for this game.”

Like most coaches, Montgomery doesn’t want to deal with what makes no difference, and if they held luncheons all week before the Cal-Stanford basketball games they merely would distract him from the real work, the preparation.

And he’s been pretty good in this game, 26-11 while at Stanford, 4-2 so far at Cal. That’s 30-13, a .698 winning percentage. And that’s better than his overall career winning mark of .687.

So he is taking it seriously, he is making it a big game, just in his own way.

“I think Stanford’s real good. They’re talented. They’ve got good players, and they’ve got a lot of them,” Montgomery said. “I think it’s going to be a really tough game. We’ve got to hold our home court. That makes it significant in itself.”

Maybe even big.


Football: Latest on recruiting, for now


It never slows down . . .

— Just got off the phone with Guss Armstead, Arik’s father, who confirmed that Cal, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Auburn has made visits this week and Oregon and Washington will be at the house today.

“Today is the last day,” Guss Armstead said. “He’s still considering all the people. There have been a lot of different things involved with the schools, movement going on in different places that changes things. You’ve just got to adjust to it.

“Once this week’s visits are over he will be clear on what he wants to decide.”

Guss Armstead said his son’s ability to enroll for the spring semester at various schools (but not at others because the deadline may have passed) will not be the decisive factor in his choice. He also said the ultimate destination of big brother Armond Armstead — finishing the school at USC but planning to transfer — will have minimal impact on Arik’s decision.

“Arik is trying to figure out his own situation,” Guss Armstead said. “They’re kind of dealing with their own situations right now.”

— Greg Biggins of ESPN is reporting that Oregon’s Chip Kelly has an afternoon home visit with safety Shaq Thompson, and that Cal and UW are in tonight. He also reports that Thompson now plans to make a signing day announcement. That wasn’t the case Wednesday. Or so we’re told.

— Various sources are reporting this list of prospects will make Cal campus visits this weekend: CB Brandon Beaver (Dominguez-Compton), LB Markuss Eligwe (Stone Mountain, Ga), WR Chris Harper (Crespi-Encino), WR Bryce Treggs (St. John Bosco-Bellflower), DB/RB Damariay Drew (Livermore), LB Michal Barton (De La Salle-Concord) and C Matt and OT Aaron Cochran (Buhach Colony-Atwater). Check out https://twitter.com/#!/CalBearReporter/status/162434131442139136


Basketball: Monty expects Solomon back to return

Cal coach Mike Montgomery said he expects that sophomore forward Richard Solomon, ruled academically ineligible last week for the remainder of this season, will be back to play in 2012-13.

Montgomery said Solomon participates in all team activities, including practice, but cannot play in games or travel.

“He’s everywhere we are, except on the road. He’s not in prison, he’s just ineligible,” Montgomery said.

Solomon, who was averaging 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds, has two seasons of eligibility left. But he must pass 24 units this school year to be reinstated.

Teammate Allen Crabbe, who also played alongside Solomon as a senior at Price HS in Los Angeles, is confident Solomon has learned from his mistake.

“He’s put it behind him. He can’t do anything about it. He’s going to take his time to work harder and get ready for next year,” Crabbe said. “It’s a learning experience for him and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to be in this situation again next year. He’s going to focus a lot more this semester.”

Montgomery said Solomon is getting attention from the athletic department’s academic advisers, but they can only do so much.

“The academic people are obviously more equipped. We’ve got them on high alert,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got Richard coming into the office at different times so we’re sure he’s doing what he needs to be doing.

“At the end of the day it’s still on him. You can only make sure he’s going where he’s supposed to go, doing what he’s supposed to do. Ultimately, he has to do the work. The motivation has to come from within himself. He knows that.”

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Football: Is Shaq going to make suitors wait?

The lesson we all should have learned long ago in recruiting — more valid than ever in the cyber age — is the old Yogi line: It’s not over ’til it’s over.

Even then, it may not be over with safety Shaq Thompson.

Thompson, who committed to Cal two weeks ago but seems wide open right now, told Scout.com he doesn’t intend to announce his school on the Feb. 1 signing day.

He didn’t indicate why he would postpone the announcement, but here’s one possible reason: He may want to see how the rest of the dominos follow, then jump to whichever school landed the best class.

Rated the No. 3 overall prospect in the country by Scout, Thompson said Cal, Washington and UCLA are all tied at the top, with Oregon also still in the picture.

The word I’ve heard is most of Thompson’s family in Sacramento wants him at Cal, where big brother Syd’Quan played. But the kid is going to make up his own mind.

We just don’t know when.

PS: My apologies for not being on recently — our blog system was down for awhile.


Football: A conversation with Todd Howard

I talked tonight with new Cal defensive line coach Todd Howard. He impressed me as a good guy with a lot of personality and a pro. Perhaps a little dazed by the flurry of activity in his life, but enthused to go to work. He came across well.

Howard, 46, was a three-year starting linebacker at Texas A&M, a first-team all-conference pick as a senior in 1986. He spent two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and one with the Barcelona Dragons of the World League of American Football.

He has coached for 20 years at various level of college football and with both the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.

Howard has three children: Trey, David and Ava. David, a 6-foot-8 high school senior in Nashville, Tenn., has signed a letter-of-intent to play basketball next season at Evansville.

Here’s our conversation:

You were a freshman at Texas A&M in 1983 when Cal beat the Aggies 19-17 at College Station after Ron Rivera tackled the ball carrier in the end zone for a safety to win it for the Bears. Did you play in the game and do you remember that bizarre finish?

“My very first college football game was against Cal. I just remember being disappointed I didn’t get a chance to play. I can’t remember the finish, but we looked like the Keystone Kops running around out there. I was thinking, `I can’t believe I committed to this school.’ ”

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Football: Livermore’s Drew re-commits to Bears

Livermore HS three-star prospect Damariay Drew tweeted that he has re-committed to Cal. He told Rivals.com his recruitment is over.

Drew took a trip to Washington and has decided against trying to reschedule a visit to Oregon after a Sunday night home visit from Jeff Tedford that he said went well. Drew re-opened his recruitment a couple weeks ago, but said he now feels certain about Cal.

Drew rushed for 1,291 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall, but also plays defense and is being recruited as an athlete.



Basketball: Bears a No. 9 seed by Lunardi

ESPN.com “bracketologist” Joe Lunardi has Cal as a No. 9 seed in his latest NCAA tournament projection.

Lunardi has the Bears playing Virginia in an opening-round game in Omaha, Neb.

The only other Pac-12 team he has in the field is Stanford, projected as a No. 12 seed in a play-in game against Portland.

Saint Mary’s College is seeded No. 2, according to Lunardi’s current projections.

— Also, here is a Pac-12 breakdown by ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan.

— UCLA is reporting that David Wear, who injured his left knee Saturday against Oregon, underwent an MRI on Monday. The test showed no damage and Wear returned to practice.