Basketball: Bears escape WSU, 80-76 OT

Click here to read our freelancer’s story on Cal-WSU.

Justin Cobbs scored all 22 of his points after halftime and Cal got past Washington State 80-76 in overtime in Pullman.

The Bears improved to 16-8, 7-4 in the Pac-12. They play Saturday at Washington, with a noon tipoff.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said on the post-game radio show. “A road sweep will get us back in the conversation. We had to have this one. I wasn’t going to tell anyone.”

Mike, everyone knew. A loss to the 11th-place Cougars coupled with a loss last month at last-place USC?

“This would have been a really bad loss,” he allowed. ”When you add in the SC loss and this one, it would have beem a really tough deal for us.

“We really needed this. I can’t tell you how much we needed this.”

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Basketball: No WSU game thread

Sorry folks, but I won’t be providing an in-game thread on Cal @ Washington State because I am not there. We have hired a freelance writer to cover the game.

I will be at the Ted Agu candlelight service at the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Plaza in front of Memorial Stadium. The event runs from 7 to 8 p.m.

I will file a report on the basketball game later. Feel free to use this space to comment on the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.


Basketball: Bird hopes to take flight again at WSU

* Wednesday at Pullman, Wash., 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

For 3 minutes, 57 seconds, Jabari Bird felt like himself again.

Otherwise, it’s been a tough few weeks for Cal’s freshman guard, still waiting to regain his form since returning from an ankle injury that put him on the shelf for four games after Christmas.

“It’s been really frustrating to start the season off the way I did, playing with a lot of confidence and having fun. And to come back and to almost be a shadow of what you used to be,” he said.

As the Bears (15-8, 6-4 Pac-12) prepare to visit Washington State (9-14, 2-9) on Wednesday night, Bird is coming off the latest in a series of quiet performances. He was scoreless and missed all five of his shots seven days ago in the Bears’ loss to Stanford.

“I’ve had a lot of time to myself to think about it, and I hate that,” Bird said. “I just want to get back on the court.”

A McDonald’s All-American last season at Richmond-Salesian, Bird arrived on campus last fall amid hype and hope. He was the highest-rated Bay Area prospect coach Mike Montgomery has brought to Cal.

As the season began, he looked the part.

Click here to read the rest of my story.


Basketball: Stanford game thread

Click here for my game story.

FINAL SCORE: Stanford 80, Cal 69. The Bears fall out of a second-place tie, dropping to 15-8, 6-4 in the Pac-12. Stanford improves to 15-7, 6-4. Cobbs had 24 points and Wallace a career-high 21 for Cal. Powell had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Cal missed nine free throws and shot 41 percent from the field.

1:54 2nd H: Cal has lots of things to point at in this one. Among them, 9 for 18 from the FT line.

2:04 2nd H: A drive by Wallace and Cal pulls to 71-59. But time is running out. Neither team has painted an offensive masterpiece: Stanford at 41.7 percent, Cal at 39 percent.

3:52 2nd H: This one may be over. Anthony Brown just scored on a drive through an open lane, was fouled and will shoot the and-1 with Stanford leading 68-52. Cal has scored five points in its past 15 possessions, shooting 1 for 13 from the floor over that stretch.

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Basketball: Kreklow to return for Stanford

* 6 p.m. Wednesday at Haas Pavilion (ESPN2)

Guard Ricky Kreklow, who has missed the past 11 games with a broken hand, is expected to play for Cal against Stanford on Wednesday night at Haas Pavilion.

Point guard Justin Cobbs called Kreklow a “glue guy” for the Bears (15-7, 6-3 Pac-12), who are playing their first game since knocking off top-ranked and unbeaten Arizona 60-58 on Saturday.

“He brings the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s Jorge-like,” Cobbs said, comparing him to former Cal guard Jorge Gutierrez, the 2012 Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“He fights for everything, he’s very aggressive, physical,” Cobbs said. “He does a lot of the dirty work. He brings those things that make a team a team.”

Kreklow hasn’t played since Dec. 14 against Fresno. The 6-foot-6 junior started five of the team’s first 11 games, averaging 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds. He will come off the bench against Stanford.

“He needs to kind of ease himself back in and not try to be everything to everybody,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “What he’s always done is play hard. The kid’s got a lot of energy. He’s not afraid to bang, he’s not afraid to mix it up. If there’s a loose ball, he’s generally the first guy on the floor.

“Those are things we’ve sorely missed. So that would be very valuable to us, to get us that boost of energy and get guys going.”

Cal beat Stanford 69-62 at Maples Pavilion to open the conference schedule. The Cardinal (14-7, 5-4) comes off a 76-70 win over Arizona State, following a three-point loss to Arizona.


Basketball: Bears knock off No. 1 Cats

Click here for my game story. Cal-UA box score.

FINAL SCORE: Cal 60, Arizona 58. Cobbs hits a fall-away 17-footer with 0.9 seconds left and the Bears knock off the nation’s No. 1 team. Cobbs finished with 19 points, 16 in the second half. He scored Cal’s final 12 points.

Cal improves to 15-7, 6-3 in the Pac-12 at the halfway point of the conference schedule. Arizona is now 21-1, 8-1. The win was just Cal’s third in 27 tries against a No. 1 — the first in 20 years and 2 days. That one happened at the Oakland Coliseum. This was the Bears’ first win over a No. 1 on their home floor.

Kravish had 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Solomon finished with 12 points and seven rebounds — all in the first half before he got into foul trouble. Wallace had 11 points.

The Bears held Arizona star guard Nick Johnson to 1 for 14 from the floor and four points. Aaron Gordon had 13 rebounds and six assists, but shot 4 for 14 on the way to eight points. The Cats shot 32 percent as a team.

Former Bishop O’Dowd HS star Brandon Ashley, who left the game after less than three minutes, may have broken his right foot, Arizona coach Sean Miller said. He could be sidelined for the year.

BTW, you thought this was big? Cal’s rugby team beat Oregon State 134-0 on Saturday.

0:42.3 2nd H: Score is even at 58-all. Kravish just had a baby hook rim out. Arizona calls timeout.

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Basketball: Seeking a crack in unbeaten Az

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

Will Cal play a zone defense tonight against Arizona?

Do the Bears really have a choice?

The top-ranked Wildcats (21-0, 8-0 Pac-12) arrive at Haas Pavilion as one of the biggest, best-rebounding teams Cal (14-7, 5-3) will see all year.

The Cats lead the Pac-12 in rebounding margin (plus-12.9) and offensive rebounds (12.8 per game). Their starting front line is a matchup nightmare: 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski, 6-9 Aaron Gordon and 6-8 Brandon Ashley.

Gordon, the freshman from San Jose, is a dynamo on the boards.

“Gordon’s a great player,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “He’s going to be a pro in one year. He’s going to be a lottery pick. He’s a monster.”

What makes Gordon one of the nation’s top freshmen?

“He plays his (butt) off. He plays hard, goes after everything. He just plays,” Montgomery said. “He gets rebounds, drives to the basket and dunks. He’s a phenomenal athlete.

“He’s a mini-version of Blake Griffin. His impact is a lot like Jason Kidd’s was — he’s just a bundle energy.”

Cal no doubt will play zone defense at least part of the time, if not throughout. Further encouraging that approach is the fact that Arizona is not a great 3-point shooting team, meaning that’s the poison most opponents pick.

Arizona’s perfect record is built on far more than its rebouding prowess. The Cats play fierce defense — they are first in the conference in field-goal percentage defense (.372) and points allowed (56.6) and second in 3-point FG percentage defense (.293).

In 21 games, only two opponents have scored more than 68 points against Arizona, and 14 have been held to 60 points or fewer.


Basketball: Richard Solomon growing up

* 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion (Pac-12 Networks)

 It was time for Richard Solomon to grow up, and he realized it just in time.

Now a senior at Cal, the 6-foot-10 forward has become one of the Pac-12′s most dependable players. As the Bears take on unbeaten and top-ranked Arizona on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion, no player in any of the BCS conferences can match Solomon’s 10.7 rebounds per game.

“I think everybody watching him play wanted more,” said former UCLA star and Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean. “They felt like with the tools he had, he could do more. And this year he’s doing it.”

But two years ago Solomon’s future nearly unraveled.

In early December of his sophomore season, Solomon was suspended indefinitely for “conduct contrary to athletic department and university values.” Reinstated after two games, he suffered a stress fracture and missed four more.

Then, in mid-January, Solomon was ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season. He sat out the Bears’ final 15 games.

“It hurt a lot,” he said.

Click here to read the rest of my story.



The leading per-game rebounders from the six BCS conferences (through games Wednesday):

Richard Solomon, Cal (Pac-12) — 10.7
Julius Randle, Kentucky (SEC) — 10.2
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma (Big 12) – 10.1
Noah Vonleh, Indiana (Big Ten) — 9.6
Anthony Lee, Temple (AAC-x) — 9.1
Devin Thomas, Wake Forest (ACC) — 8.3
x — American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East



Basketball: ASU game thread

Click here to read my game story. And here for the box score

FINAL SCORE: Arizona State 89, Cal 78 OT. Carson scored 12 of his 29 points in overtime after the Bears rallied all the way back from a 16-point deficit to take the lead. Cobbs put the Bears in front with his drive to the basket with 44 seconds left and two FTs by Kravish made it 72-69 with 25.2 seconds left. But Jermaine Marshall used a screen to get free and sank a long 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left to tie. Cobbs missed a jumper before the second-half horn sounded. Cal lost for the third straight time and fell to 14-7, 5-3 in the Pac-12.

10:21 2nd H: Cal within 57-50 after jumper by Kravish, who has 12 points on 6 for 8 from the field. Wallace, who had two points at halftime, has 15. Solomon has 12 rebounds.

14:21 2nd H: ASU’s lead reached 48-32 with 16:21 left, but Cal answered with a 12-3 run capped by a jumper by Kravish that made it 51-45 with 15:25 left. ASU now leads  53-44.

HALFTIME SCORE: Arizona State 42, Cal 30. Carson had 11 points and five assists, but he wasn’t the only ASU player who hurt Cal with quickness and penetration. Jermaine Marshall has nine points. Cobbs with 11 points for the Bears. Solomon has seven rebounds and five assists. ASU scored 13 points off seven Cal turnovers. The Sun Devils shot 5 for 10 from the 3-point arc, Cal 1 for 5. The Bears also missed five FTs.

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Basketball: The long and short of dealing with ASU

* 8 p.m. Wednesday at Haas Pavilion (ESPNU)

During Super Bowl week, Cal coach Mike Montgomery pulled out a baseball analogy to describe the strengths of the Arizona State basketball team his Golden Bears will face Wednesday night.

“It’s like baseball — take care of the middle, you’re probably in pretty good shape in terms of catcher, pitcher, center fielder,” he said. “It’s the same thing with big guy and point guard. And they’ve got that.”

In 7-foot-2 center Jordan Bachynski and uber-quick point guard Jahii Carson the Sun Devils (15-5, 4-3 Pac-12) present the Bears (14-6, 5-2) with a formidable 1-2 punch.

Bachynski leads the nation in blocked shots with 88 – an average of 4.4 per game. He has blocked at least two shots in all but one of ASU’s games (he played just 27 minutes in a rout that night) and has fouled out just once.

Montgomery said the impact of any shot-blocker extends beyond the mere numbers.  

“How many shots is he changing? How many shots are you going in there aware of him and all of a sudden you change what you do because you’re afraid to get a shot blocked?” Montgomery said.

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