Women’s basketball: Cal dives into NCAA play

Here is staff writer Elliott Almond’s preview of the Cal women’s NCAA tournament opener Saturday against Fresno State:

Lindsay Gottlieb expects Cal’s last game to help the Bears prepare for Fresno State in the NCAA tournament opener Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.

The Bears fell to UCLA 70-58 in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals while shooting a paltry 29.5 percent for the game and missing all 11 3-point shots in the first half.

“We talked about never being comfortable and understanding that great teams will come out and give us their best game — and we have to always be ready for that,” Gottlieb said.

Fresno State coach Raegan Pebley expects Cal (28-3) to be more than ready.

“They only lost three games and they’re still averaging in the 70s in points per game,” she said. “I have a hard time saying that they’re not a very good shooting team or on a downhill slide with their shooting percentages. You have to look at their body of work.”

Based on a season of success, the second-seeded Bears should roll over the No. 15 Bulldogs in a 1:20 p.m. game at United Spirit Arena.

But Fresno State (24-8) has plenty of postseason experience, playing in its sixth consecutive tournament. The undersized Bulldogs are looking for their first tournament victory against a team President Barack Obama has chosen to reach its first Final Four.

Click here for the rest of this story.

Brittany Boyd (15) and Cal open NCAA play against Fresno State. (Nhat V. Meyer/Staff)



Basketball: Which Cal player needs to deliver big?

First, my picks for the all-time five-man teams (plus one reserve) at Cal & Syracuse:

CAL: PG Jason Kidd; SG Phil Chenier; SF Lamond Murray; PF Shareef Abdur-Rahim; C Darrall Imhoff; 6th man Kevin Johnson.

SYRACUSE: PG Pearl Washington; SG Dave Bing; SF Carmelo Anthony; PF Derrick Coleman; C Rony Seikaly; 6th man Billy Owens.

So, is there anyone on the current team poised to deliver the kind of performance Saturday that will earn him a permanent place in Cal lore?

I want your vote on which player will have to muster an extraordinary game for the Bears to upset the Orange on Saturday evening:

– Allen Crabbe

– Justin Cobbs

– Richard Solomon

– David Kravish

– Tyrone Wallace

– Robert Thurman

– Someone else

I’ll be curious to get your consensus.


Basketball: Cal, Oregon fans planning to `Light Up San Jose’ for NCAA games at HP Pavilion

Cal and Oregon fans may create a bright gold-and-yellow blur Saturday in HP Pavilion and on national television for Saturday’s round of 32 doubleheader.

The Pac-12 Conference foes combined their promotional efforts as both try to pull off upsets to reach the Sweet 16. They’re calling it “Light Up San Jose.”

Cal is asking fans to wear gold when the No. 12 Bears face No. 4 Syracuse. Likewise Oregon is telling its fans to wear yellow as the No. 12 Ducks face No. 4 Saint Louis in Saturday’s opener.

It’s created a unique instance of Pac-12 cooperation amid fan bases. “That’s exciting to have a lot of Pac-12 fans here and having Oregon cheering for us,” Cal junior guard Justin Cobbs said. “We really appreciate that and we’ll be there for them, also.”

In an email sent by Cal athletics to ticketholders, fans were given a five-item checklist of how to approach Saturday’s game. Included was a request to arrive in time for Oregon’s 4:10 p.m. game against St. Louis.





Basketball: Boeheim impressed by Cal guards

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is impressed by Cal’s Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, but perhaps even more so by Justin Cobbs.

“Their guards are good, really good,” Boeheim said. “Crabbe is a tremendous shooter, one of the best shooters in the country.

“And their point guard made so many big plays (Thursday) night, really big plays,” he said, referring to Cobbs’ performance in the Bears’ 64-61 NCAA tournament win over UNLV.

“That game would have gone the other way, but he made some huge plays down the stretch, getting in the lane and getting the ball to the big guys.

“Two really good players.”

Click here for the rest of this Cal-Syracuse notebook.


Basketball: Syracuse game preview

Under any circumstances, facing the Syracuse defense is a challenge for an unfamiliar opponent. “You hear about it,” senior guard Brandon Triche said, “but our zone is going to be way different than they expect.”

The version Cal sees Saturday evening in their third-round NCAA tournament matchup at HP Pavilion may be the best the Orange has ever put on the floor.

“Yeah, I think it is one of our better defensive teams,” said coach Jim Boeheim, in his 37th season. “We pride ourselves on defense … and this year we’re probably a little better than the norm.”

For the 12th-seeded Golden Bears (21-11) to climb past the Orange (27-9) and into their first Sweet 16 since 1997, they will have to be smart, quick and decisive on offense against a 2-2-1 zone alignment with few holes.

Click here for the rest of my story.

THE SERIES: Syracuse leads 1-0. The Orange beat Cal 95-73 at Madison Square Garden during the 2009-2010 season.

ETC: Allen Crabbe needs 27 points to pull even with Brian Hendrick (1990-93) for 10th on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,556 points. Crabbe, who scored 19 against UNLV, has 1,529 for his career. … Syracuse’s 81-34 win over Montana on Thursday was its first in four NCAA games played in California. … Jim Boeheim and Mike Montgomery have combined to coach 68 college seasons and have won a total of 1,83 games.

WHAT’S NEXT: A victory would send the Bears to the Sweet 16 round in Washington D.C., beginning next Thursday. Cal has not advanced to the regional semifinals since 1997.

Cal (21-11, 12-6 Pac-12)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
SG Allen Crabbe 6-6 Jr. 18.7 6.1
PF Richard Solomon 6-10 Jr. 8.5 6.6
PF David Kravish 6-9 So. 8.0 7.0
PG Justin Cobbs 6-2 Jr. 15.4 4.8*
SG Tyrone Wallace 6-3 Fr. 7.0 4.5
Key reserves
G Brandon Smith 5-11 Sr. 2.5 1.9*
C Robert Thurman 6-10 Sr. 4.8 3.6
G Ricky Kreklow 6-6 So. 3.5 2.3

Syracuse (27-9, 11-7 Big East)

Starters Ht Yr Pts Rebs
PF Rakeem Christmas 6-9 So. 5.4 4.7
SF James Southerland 6-8 Sr. 13.7 5.2
SF C.J. Fair 6-8 Jr. 14.4 7.0
SG Brandon Triche 6-4 Sr. 13.9 3.3
PG Michael Carter-Williams 6-6 So. 11.8 7.8*
Key reserves
C DaJuan Coleman 6-9 Fr. 4.8 4.0
F Jerami Grant 6-8 Fr. 4.1 2.9
G Trevor Cooney 6-4 Fr. 3.7 0.9



Basketball: How Bears fared in NCAA 2nd round

Cal’s 64-61 win over UNLV on Thursday was the 12th time the Bears have won their opening game in the NCAA tournament. They play Syracuse on Saturday at about 6:40 p.m. at HP Pavilion.

Here’s a look at how they’ve fared over the years in their second NCAA game:

– 1946: After beating Colorado 50-44 at Kansas City, the Bears lost 52-35 to Oklahoma A&M in the West Regional final.

– 1957: The Bears lost 50-46 to USF in the West Regional Final in Corvallis, Ore., after beating BYU 86-59.

– 1958: The Bears lost 66-62 in overtime to Seattle and star Elgin Baylor in the West Regional final at the Cow Palace after beating Idaho State 54-43 in their opener.

– 1959: Cal crushed Saint Mary’s 66-46 in the West Regional final at the Cow Palace in its second-round game, and went on to win the national championship.

– 1960: Cal easily beat Santa Clara 69-49 in its West Regional semifinal, and went on to play in the national championship game for the second straight season, losing to Ohio State 75-55.

– 1990: After a 30-year absence from the NCAAs, Cal beat Indiana 65-63 in Hartford, Conn., then lost to Connecticut 74-54 in its second-round game.

– 1993: In a memorable second-round game, Jason Kidd, Lamond Murray and the Bears upset two-time defending national champ Duke 82-77 at Rosemont, Ill., to advance to the Sweet 16.

– 1997: In Ben Braun’s debut season, the Bears followed a first-round win over Princeton with a 75-68 defeat of Villanova to qualify for the Sweet 16.

– 2002: The Bears fell 63-50 to Pitt in Pittsburgh after knocking off Penn in their opening-round game.

– 2003: Two days after freshman Richard Midgley sank a game-winning shot to beat North Carolina State 76-74 in overtime, Cal lost 74-65 to Oklahoma at Oklahoma City.

– 2010: Pac-10 regular-season champ Cal whipped Louisville 77-62 in its opener at Jacksonville, Fla., before falling 68-53 to eventual NCAA winner Duke in the second round.



Basketball: Saturday game time/TV info

Cal’s NCAA tournament game Saturday against Syracuse will begin at approximately 6:40 p.m. and will be aired on TBS. That should be good news for all of you who don’t get truTV (I don’t either).

Syracuse crushed Montana 81-34 on Thursday night, improving to 27-9.

Pac-12 schools went 3-0 on Thursday, with Oregon and Arizona also winning.

Two more Pac-12 teams play Friday:

   — No. 10 Colorado vs. No. 7 Illinois at 1:40 p.m. on TNT

   — No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 10 Minnesota at 7:57 p.m. on . . . truTV.


Basketball: UNLV game thread

Click here for my game story and here to read Mark Purdy’s column on Robert Thurman.

FINAL SCORE: Cal 64, UNLV 61. The Bears (21-11) survive a flurry of missed free throws in the final 4o seconds to advance to Saturday’s game against either Syracuse or Montana. Cal was just 4 for 12 from the FT line in the final 40 seconds. Crabbe scored 19 points, Thurman had 12 on six dunks.

3:33 2nd H: Cal leads 56-50. Thurman with 12 points on six dunks.

8:46 2nd H: UNLV has missed its last 11 FGAs and doesn’t have  a basket since 16:28. But Cal offense also stalling — it’s 48-43 Bears.

11:26 2nd H: Cal leads 48-40 after 3-pointer by Cobbs. Crabbe picked up his third PF with 13:40 left on a touch foul vs. Bennett, shooting a 3-pointer. Crabbe sat and Bennett made all three FTs. Cal staying in zone throughout and UNLV either passive or quick-shooting.

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Basketball: `If you have a heart and want to compete, this is a great stage’ — Montgomery

Asked if he’s confident his team — occasionally a quarter low in the motivation department — will have be emotionally prepared for Thursday’s NCAA game against UNLV, coach Mike Montgomery said, “If you don’t have a sense of urgency coming into this, then you’re in the wrong business.”

Monty said he’s reminded his players that unlike during the regular season, when they have a Saturday game after a Thursday game, nothing is promised in the NCAAs.

“Now you’re earning the right to play again,” he said. “These kids have watched NCAA basketball for years and have watched the One Shining Moment and watched people cut down nets and see people be heroes because of a shot made.

“That’s something that motivates kids. If not, then we’re going to be in trouble, then there’s no excuse for it, then you don’t have a heart.

“And that’s a big part of what any team has. If you have a heart and want to compete, this is a great stage to do it on.”


Basketball: No one `sane’ in Las Vegas expecting Anthony Bennett to remain in college

Does anyone in Las Vegas expect UNLV star freshman Anthony Bennett to return to school next season?

“Not too many sane people,” teammate Mike Moser said on the eve of the Runnin’ Rebels’ NCAA tournament game against Cal at HP Pavilion.

Bennett, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward and the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year, is a considered a consensus top-10 pick in the NBA draft.

So, he’s gone after this season?

“Oh definitely,” Moser said. “Anthony, he’s been great this season, playing like every game is his last. He’s one of the most mature freshmen I’ve ever played with.”

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