Cal basketball: Bird, Bears topple Beavers

The best home start in Cal basketball history featured another stellar performance by Jabari Bird but more second-half drama than the Bears wanted in an 83-71 victory over Oregon State in front of 10,906 fans at Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

Bird scored 23 points and Cal led by as many as 15 before the Beavers used a 14-2 surge to pull within 59-56 with 7:49 left.

When the considerable dust settled, the Bears (17-8, 7-5 Pac-12) found themselves tied for fifth place with Utah in the jumbled conference standings, just a game-and-a-half behind first-place Oregon.

The victory improved the Bears to 16-0 at home for the first time ever in a single season, and equaled the second-longest overall home win streak in school history with their 17th consecutive win over two seasons. Cal’s longest home win streak is 26 games, from Dec. 27, 1958 through Dec. 16, 1960.

Next for the Bears are games against the Washington schools on the road, where Cal is 1-8 this season. “We’ve got to pretend we’re at home,” Bird said.

Freshman Jaylen Brown promised a continuation of the effort the Bears delivered in sweeping a three-game homestand.

“We’ve been a little more assertive,” he said. “We’re trying to make the (NCAA) tournament, trying to finish first in the Pac-12. The time is now.”

The timing of Bird’s long-awaited emergence has been excellent for the Bears. He followed his career-high-equaling 24-point effort on Thursday against Oregon with another big game, adding up to the most productive Pac-12 weekend of his three-year Cal career.

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Cal football: Bears make staff assignment changes

Garret Chachere will become Cal’s running backs coach after three seasons working with the team’s linebackers or defensive ends, coach Sonny Dykes announced Saturday.

Chachere will take the assignment handled last season by former offensive coordinator Tony Franklin, who moved on to Middle Tennessee State. Chachere, who turns 47 next month, previously coached running backs at Arizona in 2011.

Meanwhile, Art Kaufman will add linebackers to his role as defensive coordinator.

“These moves will strengthen our coaching staff,” Dykes said in a statement. “Garret is an outstanding teacher who will do a fantastic job as our running backs coach. He has a tremendous amount of expertise with this offense from his time on the coaching staff at Arizona and that was critical to us being able to make these moves. Garret is quite comfortable with this offense. He speaks the same language as the rest of the staff, and I am extremely confident that he will fit right in and be on the same page with Jake Spavital and all of our coaches on the offensive side of the ball.”

“This also gives Art the opportunity to work directly with a position group that he has coached successfully for most of his career,” Dykes added.

Dykes will continue to coach the Bears’ outside receivers.


Cal basketball: Bears cannot overlook significance of Oregon State matchup

Two days after its 83-63 win over No. 11 Oregon – Cal’s first 20-point defeat of a Top-15 team since 1970 – the Bears return to Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon to take on Oregon State.

It’s not the sexy, high-profile game that fans watched Thursday, when the Pac-12-leading Ducks, then ranked No. 1 by the RPI computer, came to town.

The 3:30 p.m. matchup won’t be shown on the ESPN Networks, but on the Pac-12 Networks.

It’s not the best game in the country today (Kansas at Oklahoma), nor even in the conference (Washington at Colorado). Certainly USC at Arizona on Sunday has more sizzle.

What the game is to the Bears is absolutely critical.

Voted as the preseason No. 2 in the Pac-12, Cal (16-8, 6-5) is a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference right now, and has played that way much of the season, winning at home, stumbling on the road.

The Beavers (15-8, 6-6) reside just a half-game back of the Bears, and beat them 77-71 in Corvallis, last month. Not a high point in the Cal season, for sure.

But coach Cuonzo Martin’s players must treat the rematch as a high-priority game because it is. A loss to the Beavers unravels the gains made by beating Oregon and sends Cal on the road to Washington next week with an even more razor-thin margin for error.

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Cal basketball: Bears blow out Oregon

Jabari Bird said he was dozing off a bit in class Thursday when he got a text message from Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, informing the players that senior guard Tyrone Wallace had been “cleared for takeoff” against No. 11 Oregon.

Bird and the Bears were at their wide-awake best during an 83-63 rout of the Pac-12’s first-place team in front of an announced crowd of 10,628 at Haas Pavilion.

Bird hit three 3-pointers in the opening five minutes and equaled his career high with 24 points. Wallace, back after missing five games with a broken hand, delivered 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists and Cal improved to 15-0 at home.

The Bears never trailed and led by as many as 25 points on the way to thrashing the top-ranked team in the NCAA’s official RPI ratings.

“That is the Cal team you expect when you play them at home,” said Oregon coach Dana Altman, whose Ducks (20-5, 9-3) had won six in a row, nine of 10. “We got kicked . . . I don’t know how else to put it.”

Wallace, who played 28 minutes despite not having practiced since the injury on Jan. 16, said the Bears are putting no ceiling on what’s ahead. “I think the sky’s the limit,” he said. “We’ve got to continue to bring that effort and intensity on the defensive end.”

Cal (16-8, 6-5) forged leads of 12-2, 15-4 and 18-6 – the early burst keyed by tight defense and Bird’s dead-on perimeter shooting.

This was the player Cal fans have waited to see – and the team they expected this season.

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Cal football: Former Aggies’ offensive coordinator Jake Spavital lands at Cal, per report

Jake Spavital, who has coached the likes of Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith and Johnny Manziel and has a long history working with the Air Raid offense, is Cal’s new offensive coordinator, CBS Sports reported Thursday morning.

The hiring of Spavital, 30, to replace departed coordinator Tony Franklin, has been widely speculated for more than a week. He spent the past three seasons at Texas A&M, and was offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15 before being dismissed Jan. 3.

Spavital also will coach Cal’s quarterbacks as the Bears enter spring ball next month searching for a new starter to replace record-setting Jared Goff, who is entering the NFL draft.

Spavital has a strong background with the up-tempo Air Raid spread offense, having learned the system under Dana Holgorsen at Houston (2009), Oklahoma State (2010) and West Virginia (2011-12). Holgersen and Cal coach Sonny Dykes worked side by side at Texas Tech from 2000 through 2006, including the final two seasons as co-offensive coordinators for the Red Raiders.

Spavital was hired as quarterbacks coach by A&M in 2013, and worked with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Although the Aggies won fewer games than the year before, Manziel enjoyed a more productive season as a passer, throwing for 4,114 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2013.

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Cal basketball: Bears, Kameron Rooks face serious challenge vs. first-place Oregon

No. 11 Oregon (20-4, 9-2), sitting atop the Pac-12 Conference standings and No. 3 in the national RPI rankings, visits Haas Pavilion on Thursday night (6 p.m./ESPN2) to face seventh-place Cal (15-8, 5-5).

A mismatch?

At least on the surface. The Bears are determined to show that’s not the case, and they point to their 68-65 loss at Oregon a month ago as evidence the result could be different this time.

“We felt like we let one slip away in Eugene. So now we’re looking for a little revenge against them,” Cal point guard Sam Singer said. “They’re playing really good basketball and they’re on top of conference. So it’s a great opportunity to get them at home.”

Cal is 14-0 at home and coming off one of its strongest outings of the season, a 76-61 win over Stanford.

It’s true the Bears did all they could in Eugene to allow the Ducks to win. The Bears shot 0 for 12 from the 3-point arc and turned the ball over 18 times. They had just six assists.

“They play kind of a weird zone that we couldn’t figure out. But that’s no excuse for not moving the ball,” said Singer, adding that the Bears have devoted time in practice to solving the Oregon defense.

Oregon is just 5-4 in games away from home, but has won its past six games, including an 83-75 victory at Arizona two weeks ago that snapped the Wildcats’ 49-game home win streak.

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Cal basketball: Bears turn up defense to subdue Stanford

Note: I have Warriors’ duty tonight, so colleague Jon Wilner covered the Cal-Stanford game at Haas Pavilion. Here is his report:

Cal turned it up, Stanford couldn’t keep up, and order was restored to the Bay Area’s most prominent basketball rivalry.

Fueled by tenacious defense and sharp perimeter shooting, the Bears took control midway through the first half and rolled to a 76-61 victory over the Cardinal on Saturday that kept the teams on their projected paths.

For Cal (15-8, 5-5), which extended its home-court winning streak to 15 games, that’s a potential berth in the NCAA Tournament.

For Stanford (11-10, 4-6), which was blown out for the third consecutive game, that’s a lower-tier finish in the Pac-12.

The difference Saturday, before an announced crowd of 11,858 at Haas Pavilion, was Cal’s energy level and the play of its supporting cast.

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Cal basketball: Bears hope they’re safe at home vs. Stanford

Cal returns to its safe haven of Haas Pavilion on Saturday afternoon for a 1 pm tipoff (ESPN2) against rival Stanford.

The Bears (14-8, 4-5) and Cardinal (11-9, 4-5) are tied for seventh place entering the second half of the Pac-12 schedule.

Stanford beat Cal 77-71 at Maples Pavilion back on Jan. 14, which is in keeping with a season-long trend that has just one deviation.

Cal is 13-0 at home, 1-8 away from home.

With a gradually sinking RPI rating of No. 42, are the Bears approaching a situation where they need to sweep the rest of their home schedule to maintain a reasonable shot at earning an NCAA tournament bid?

“I think you’ve got to win your home games, anyway,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I don’t know if there is necessarily pressure. You have to win your home games because that’s what you should do.

“I’d be very surprised if we don’t win a road game. We haven’t gone into any road game thinking, `Man, I don’t think we can win this game.’ It’s just a matter of doing what we do.”

So far what the Bears do is play at a high level – especially on defense – at home.

But winning their final five home games won’t be easy; after Stanford, the Bears face the Oregon schools in Berkeley a week from now, them the L.A. schools the last weekend of the month.

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Cal football: Jake Spavital expected to be named Bears’ new offensive coordinator

Cal coach Sonny Dykes said at signing day on Wednesday he expected to name a new offensive coordinator by the end of this week or early next. All signs point to that being the case.

Football Scoop and Sports Illustrated both reported Friday that former Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spivital is close to joining Dykes’ staff as replacement for Tony Franklin.

I reported nine days ago that Spavital, who has coached Johnny Manziel, Geno Smith and Brandon Weeden, was in the mix for the job. Here is that story:

Spavital, 30, spent the past three seasons at A&M, and was offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15.

But Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin announced Jan. 3 that the two had “mutually decided to part ways.”

Spavital would bring one significant qualification to the job to replace Franklin, who announced last week he was leaving Cal after three seasons to serve as coordinator at Middle Tennessee State and be closer to family. Spavital has a strong background with the Air Raid offense, having worked under Dana Holgorsen at Houston, Oklahoma State and West Virginia from 2009 through 2012.

He arrived at A&M in 2013 after offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury took the head coaching job at Texas Tech, and served as quarterbacks coach, working with Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Spavital spent time coaching Smith at West Virginia and Weeden at Oklahoma State, even though Weeden was nearly two years older than Spavital.

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