Basketball: A must-win for Bears? You betcha

* 5 p.m. Sunday at Haas Pavilion (FoxSports1)

Is it too simple to suggest Cal must beat USC on Sunday evening or say goodbye to a potential NCAA tournament at-large bid?

Mathematically, a defeat wouldn’t eliminate the Golden Bears (17-9, 9-5).

Realistically, Cal cannot afford a second loss to the last-place Trojans (10-16, 1-12).

There just would be no way to explain away another defeat to a team that has beaten no one else since the calendar flipped to 2014.

To a team playing this weekend without suspended top scorer and rebounder Byron Wesley.

To a team that has won just one road game all season.

To a team coming off a 21-point loss at Stanford.

Cal began the Pac-12 schedule with five straight wins, three of them on the road. The Bears are 3-5 since then. That spiral of inconsistency began with a 77-69 loss to the Trojans.

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Basketball: Earl Shultz ready for his big day

Sunday’s game against USC is big for Cal, coming four days after a lopsided loss to UCLA.

But the occasion is no less significant for Dr. Earl Shultz, who will be honored at halftime with the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award.

For Shultz, who played on Newell’s two Final Four teams at Cal and became a lifelong close friend of the late coaching legend, there can be bigger honor.

“For the guys who played for Pete,” Shultz said this week, “it’s the ultimate to be associated with Pete.”

Shultz was a sophomore reserve guard on the 1959 Cal team that won the NCAA title, then became a starter the next season when the Bears returned to the Final Four at the Cow Palace, losing to Ohio State in the title game.

He jokingly refers to himself and his teammates as “dinosaurs,” but these were Cal’s greatest teams. His first two seasons as a varsity player, the Bears went 53-6, won a pair of conference titles and helped Newell close out his career with the last of eight straight victories over John Wooden and UCLA.

The Bears haven’t been back to the Final Four since.

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Women’s basketball: Cal tops UCLA

The Cal women remain alone in second place in the Pac-12 after a 77-72 win at UCLA.

Guard Brittany Boyd had 13 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals for the Bears (19-7, 11-4).

Reshanda Gray had 13 points and 15 rebounds, Afure Jemerigbe scored 15 points, and Gennifer Brandon came off the bench for 14 points and 11 rebounds.


Basketball: Dave Butler to Pac-12 Hall of Honor

Dave Butler, a four-year (1983-86) starting forward who helped Cal to its first postseason bid in 26 seasons, will be inducted into the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor on March 14 during the conference tournament at Las Vegas.

Butler still ranks 19th on Cal’s career scoring list (1,291 points) and sixth in rebounding (814). He was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1983 and led the Bears in rebounding three times.

He still holds the Cal record of 113 career starts and set single-game school marks of 20 free throws made and 24 attempts against Arizona State in 1987.

Butler and the Bears ended a 26-year postseason drought with an NIT appearance in 1986, and they returned the next year, advancing to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

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Football: Barbour blasts Bret Bielema

On the day after Arkansas coach Bret Bielema used the death of Cal football player Ted Agu as an argument for making a rule change to slow the college game, Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour angrily responded, calling his remarks “misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive.”

Bielema told reporters in Arkansas on Thursday that Agu’s Feb. 7 death, following a routine team training run, was evidence that college football should adopt a controversial rule that would prevent teams from snapping the ball until 10 seconds had elapsed on the 40-second play clock.

He made reference to a CBSSports.com report that Agu carried the sickle cell trait, adding, “I have a half a dozen players on my team currently that have that trait.”

Asked for concrete data that supports the notion that no-huddle, up-tempo football is a threat to the health of players, Bielema said, “Death certificates. There’s no more anything I need than that.”

After Agu’s funeral service Friday in his hometown of Bakersfield, attended by Cal’s players and coaches, Barbour blasted Bielema for his remarks.

“Bret Bielema’s comments about our Ted Agu are misinformed, ill-advised and beyond insensitive,” she said via Twitter.

“Using the tragic loss of one of our student athletes as a platform to further a personal agenda in a public setting is beyond inappropriate.”

In a series of tweets, Bielema offered an explantion for his comments and condolences, but stopped short of an apology.

“In my press conference last night, I referenced information about the tragic loss of a life of a student-athlete,” Bielema said. “My comments were intended to bring awareness to player safety and instead they have caused unintended hurt.

“As a head coach who works with young individuals every day the passing of Ted Agu is a reminder to us all how short and precious life is. I would like to extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the Agu family, Coach Sonny Dykes and to the University of California family.”

Bielema and Alabama coach Nick Saban are among high-profile coaches who favor the change, which must be approved by a playing rules oversight panel on March 6.


Football: Arkansas coach invokes Ted Agu’s death as reason to pass new 10-second rule

Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema stooped to using the recent death of Cal player Ted Agu to advance his agenda of passing a controversial rule proposal to slow down college offenses.

Challenged to provide data that shows the rule should be implemented for health and safety reasons, Bielema, according to the Associated Press, said, “Death certificates. There’s no more anything I need than that.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday before a booster club meeting in Searcy, Ark., Bielema offered Agu’s death on Feb. 7 following a team training run as an argument to implement the rule proposal, which would prohibit snapping the ball until at least 10 seconds run off the 40-second play clock.

He made reference to a CBSSports.com report that said Agu had tested positive for the sickle cell trait. An autopsy is being performed to determine cause of death.

Bielema said the inability to substitute an injured player between plays could lead to injury or death.

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Football: Jahvid Best says he’s healthy, excited to be back at school to help coach running backs

Jahvid Best, back at Cal as a student assistant running backs coach, said he currently has no lingering effects from the series of concussions that ended his NFL career in 2011 after just 22 games.

“My health is fine,” he said Thursday during an informal media gathering to announce his return to school as a student and part-time coach. “I have no issues that are dragging on. It’s good that I left the game healthy. That’s very important to me.”

Best, 25, whose All-America career at Cal was ended when he suffered a head injury on a spectacular fall after a midair collision during the 2009 season, suffered two additional concussions in his second season with the Detroit Lions. He hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 16, 2011.

The Lions kept Best on the payroll through the 2012 season, but he never was cleared to play and the team finally released him last July.

“Oh man, that was tough for me,” Best said of leaving the game. “My playing days are over. I knew it was going to happen eventually. It happened a lot quicker than I wanted it to. So now I’ve decided to come back to school and figure out what’s next for me.”

Click here to read the rest of my story.


Basketball: UCLA game thread

Click here to read my game story.

FINAL SCORE: UCLA 86, Cal 66. The No. 23 Bruins (21-5, 10-3) used an 18-3 run to pull away and bury the Bears (17-9, 8-5). UCLA led by as many as 27 points. Adams scored 28 for UCLA. Mathews led the Bears with 16. 

13:09 2nd H: Big trouble for the Bears — UCLA leads 61-44 and seems able to score whenever it wants. Especially Adams, who has 18 points.

15:50 2nd H: A 7-2 UCLA burst, punctuated by a 3-pointer from David Wear, and it’s 55-41. Kyle Anderson has three fouls for the Bruins, but has remained in the game. Adams has 14 points for UCLA, which seems able to score from almost anywhere on the floor against the Bears. Gonna be a long climb back for Cal.

HALFTIME SCORE: UCLA 44, CAL 32. Jordan Adams hits a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in the half and the Bruins equal their biggest lead of the half. The Bears had the margin down to four points before UCLA outscored them 10-2 over the final 3 minutes. Adams has 12 points for UCLA, Bryce Alford and Travis Wear each have seven and Anderson has four points, five rebounds and four assists. Cal, which shot just 34.5 percent in the first UCLA game, still having trouble: 39.3 percent in the half. Bird and Mathews with nine and eight points, respectively. Cobbs finally got into the act — he has five points and five assists. 

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Football: Ted Agu service set for Monday

Cal will host a memorial service for the late Ted Agu on Monday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Haas Pavilion.

Agu, a junior defensive end on the Cal football team, died Feb. 7 after an off-season team training run.

Agu’s teammates and fraternity brothers organized a candlelight service outside Memorial Stadium last Wednesday night. This event was scheduled to allow members of Agu’s family, from Bakersfield and Nigeria, to attend.



Basketball: With 2nd place on the line, Bears promise they’ll to be ready for UCLA

* Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)

A crowd of more than 11,000 will be on hand at Haas Pavilion to watch Cal take on No. 23 UCLA, and maybe that will provide more motivation than . . . a large pepperoni?

Asked this week whether a 76-64 loss at Pauley Pavilion last month will fuel the Bears, coach Mike Montgomery laughed and suggested, “Our guys, pizza fuels them.”

In other words, he can’t always get a read on when this team will be ready to burst from the chute, fired up to play.

“I would think that just given how poorly we played on that L.A. weekend,” he said, “there would be some kind of `we can play better than that’ thought process.

“Getting the road sweep (in Washington) puts us back in the conversation, there should be some excitement from that. UCLA’s very good.

Senior Justin Cobbs wants to assure his coach the Bears will be ready.

“It’s time to play,” he said. “We’re fighting for a Pac-12 championship now. If you don’t have a little fire under you, something is wrong. We’ll come out aggressive.

“We know the importance of this game.”

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