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Basketball: Cal featured tonight on The Drive

Cal fans will recall that the Golden Bears football team was featured season-long in the fall of 2013 on “The Drive,” the behind-the-scenes program aired by the Pac-12 Newtworks.

“The Drive” branched out to basketball this season, and Cal will be highlighted in tonight’s episode that can be seen at 9 p.m., with an encore at 11 p.m.

Here is a tease of tonight’s episode: http://pac-12.com/videos/the-drive-digital-exclusive-cal-mens-basketball-cuonzo-martin-puts-emphasis-defense

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Basketball: Bears’ win streak snapped at Utah

FINAL SCORE: Utah 76, Cal 61. The Bears (16-10, 6-7) led 32-26 with just under 5 minutes left in the first half. They were outscored 50-29 the rest of the way. Excellent offensive performances by Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird, but the Bears’ defense was terrible. Cal committed 26 fouls, allowing Utah to shoot 29 free throws. The Bears attempted 12, and missed seven of those.

Wallace scored 26 points on 11 for 15 from the field and had seven rebounds. Bird, three days after attempting just three shots (and making none of them) at Colorado, was 10 for 14 and scored a season-best 21 points. Combined, the two had 47 points on 21 for 29 from the field. The rest of the team: 14 points on 5 for 28 shooting.

Jordan Mathews, who had averaged 16.5 ppg the previous four games, was scoreless and took just two shots in 14 minutes. Coach Cuonzo Martin said afterward that Mathews’ ankle sprain from two games earlier flared up. “He tried to play, but he couldn’t move,” Martin said.

David Kravish shot 2 for 11. Dwight Tarwater and Sam Singer, whose confidence had soared in recent games, were a combined 0 for 8. Five Cal players finished with four fouls.

Cal missed a chance to move into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12. Instead, the Bears remain in seventh, just one-half game ahead of Arizona State and Colorado.

No. 11 Utah (20-4, 10-2), a veteran team, was not rattled by Cal’s strong early play and remains tied with Arizona for first place. The Utes got double-digit scoring from four players, led by Austrian freshman center Jakob Poeltl with 18 points and point guard Delon Wright with 16.

Next: Cal at Stanford, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

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Basketball: Utes stand in way of 6th straight Cal win

Cal goes after its sixth straight win Sunday evening, and without question this will be the most challenging assignment of the bunch.

The Bears (16-9, 6-6) take on No. 11 Utah (19-4, 9-2) at Salt Lake City in a 5:30 p.m. contest that will be aired on ESPNU.

The Utes are coming off a 75-59 crushing of Stanford and are 14-0 at home this season. Cal toppled Colorado 68-61, its first win in Boulder in more than 40 years.

Although a victory would lift the Bears above .500 in the conference and into the league’s upper division, coach Cuonzo Martin wants his team to treat the game as any other.

“Don’t make the atmosphere bigger than it is. It’s a basketball game. Try to keep it as simple as possible,” Martin said. “I don’t want success to consume our guys.”

The Utes own victories over Wichita State, BYU, UNLV and UCLA. They lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 56.2 points per game, and margin of victory at plus-18.0 per game. They shoot a league-best 50 percent as a team and allow opponents to convert just 37.5 percent.

“As talented as they are, it’s just a ballgame, an opponent within our league,” Martin said. “Our job is to win the game.”

The game will match two of the Pac-12’s most dynamic and productive point guards in Utah senior Delon Wright and Cal junior Tyrone Wallace. Both are stat sheet stuffers:

– Wright: 14.2 points per game, 4.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.22 steals.
– Wallace: 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.32 steals.

Martin called Wright, a former City College of San Francisco star, “one of the best lead guards in all of college basketball” and said he has counseled Wallace not to let the matchup become personal.

“Just play the way you know how to play, run your team and understand it’s more about Cal winning this basketball game,” he said.

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Basketball: Ex-Cal great KJ a Hall of Fame nominee

Former Cal star Kevin Johnson, a two-time all-Pac-10 selection and three-time NBA all-star, has been nominated to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

KJ, who played at Cal from 1984 through ’87, joins Kentucky coach John Calipari and former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo among 12 nominees for the Hall of Fame. The Class of 2015 will be announced April 6.

“You look up there at some of the players and you don’t deserve to be in that category,” Johnson said. “These are people who, I had their pictures on my walls growing up. Having a chance to stand with them is remarkable.”

One of the most popular players in Cal history, Johnson finished his college career as the Bears’ career scoring leader. He currently sits sixth on the school’s all-time list with 1,655 points to go with 521 assists

A 12-year NBA veteran and the current mayor of Sacramento, the 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 17.9 points and 9.1 assists as a pro. He averaged better than 20 points in five seasons and four times averaged double-digit assists.

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Basketball: Bears hold off CU for fifth straight win

* Click here for our correspondent’s game story.

FINAL SCORE: Cal 68, Colorado 61. Wallace scored on a floater in the lane with 21.6 seconds left, then helped Singer steal the ball from Booker as the Bears took charge. Two FTs by Kravish and one by Bird closed it out. Cal (16-9, 6-6) wins its fifth straight game after a six-game losing streak and beats Colorado in Boulder for the first time since Dec. 16, 1974 — more than 40 years.

Scoring change: Mathews made 5 of 7 from the 3-point line and kept the Bears in front when no one else was doing much. He finished with 22 points. Wallace had 16, Kravish contributed 14 points and seven rebounds and Tarwater made three 3-pointers to score nine. Singer had six assists. Not sure what was going on with Bird, who seemed in a trance offensively and finished with three points and 0 for 3 from the field.

“That was great for our guys,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin told reporters afterward. “We’re growing into a good defensive team. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re certainly making progress as a unit. Guys are playing hard, competing, playing together as a unit.

“To beat a team of this magnitude on their home floor with this type of energy and passion was great for our players and our program.”

Scott had 17 points and four of Colorado’s 10 blocked shots, and Booker added 11. But the two combined to shoot 9 for 27 as the Buffs made just 36.7 percent for the game. Colorado (11-12, 4-7) finished with a 43-34 rebounding edge and outscored Cal 18-4 on second-chance points.

* Martin said after the game that junior reserve forward Christian Behrens will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday. “That’s as far as we know right now,” he said, when asked the exact nature of Behrens’ injury.

* Cal plays Sunday at No. 11 Utah (19-4, 9-2), which went ahead of idle Arizona into first place in the Pac-12 standings with its 75-59 win over Stanford. Tipoff Sunday is 5:30 p.m. PT on ESPNU.

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Basketball: Bears try to buck history at Colorado

Cal (15-9, 5-6) will try to beat Colorado (11-11, 4-6) in Boulder for the first time Dec. 16, 1974 – more than 40 years – when the teams meet Thursday night. Tipoff is 6 p.m. PST and the game will be aired on FoxSports1.

The Bears are 1-9 all-time vs. Colorado at Boulder.

Even this season, as the Buffaloes have lost three times at home, they don’t make a habit of it. They are coming off a 79-51 loss to Utah, but have not dropped consecutive home conference games since Tad Boyle became coach in 2010-11.

CU is 69-12 at home under Boyle.

The Buffaloes, ravaged by injuries this season, may be getting healthy.

Center Josh Scott, who missed seven straight games and eight in a span of nine outings due to a back injury, returned for the Utah game. He had 10 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.

Senior guard Askia Booker, who scored 43 points in CU’s 98-94 triple-overtime win over USC on Jan. 29, sat out the Utah game with a hip pointer but told reporters in Colorado he will play against Cal. Booker is the Buffs’ leading scorer at 17.6 ppg.

Cal brings a four-game overall win streak into the game after losing six in a row.

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Basketball: Martin’s upbeat message helps fuel Golden Bears’ rally from six-game losing streak

* Cal at Colorado, Thursday, 6 p.m., FoxSports1

I’ll admit it. I wasn’t quite sure what to think about Cuonzo Martin’s never-ending upbeat attitude in the face of a recent six-game Cal basketball losing streak.

We’re just getting to know the Bears’ first-year coach, and the temptation was to wonder if this guy’s positive demeanor was merely a means of hiding his true feelings.

The team was making progress in practice, he said. He saw improvement, even if it didn’t manifest itself for 40 minutes on game night. Progress was coming. He was not discouraged. The Bears were close to breaking through.

Those were the messages he gave reporters, but also apparently what he told his players.

And he said it so often, and with such sincerity, that his players believed it. No one in the Cal locker room, even during a three-week drought, gave up on himself or his teammates.

“Obviously not,” said senior David Kravish, referring to the four-game win streak the Bears have assembled since losing six in a row.

I talked this week with interim athletic director Michael Williams, who is impressed by Martin’s approach to his players.

“One of the things that’s great about him is every single opportunity he has to comment, he says something positive about the player or the team. It’s just relentlessly positive,” Williams said.

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Basketball: Bucks sign Gutierrez to 2nd 10-day deal

Former Cal star Jorge Gutierrez signed a second 10-day contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Gutierrez signed with the Bucks on Jan. 28 after point guard Kendall Marshall suffered a season-ending knee injury. Gutierrez, the former Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaged 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14.8 minutes over four games.

He tied a career high with 13 points in the Bucks’ 117-113 loss in Houston last Friday and also started for Milwaukee in a victory in Toronto on Feb. 2.

“He did everything we’ve asked, on and off the court,” fellow Cal alum and coach Jason Kidd said.

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Basketball: Golden Bears’ string of game-winning 3-point shots defies steep mathematical odds

Three consecutive Cal victories made possible by last-second 3-point baskets would have been amazing had even the Bears’ best perimeter shooter — Jordan Mathews — taken those three shots.

But Mathews was involved in none of them.

Instead, the Bears beat Washington, USC and UCLA on 3-pointers converted by Sam Singer, Tyrone Wallace and Dwight Tarwater — none of them regarded as elite deep shooters.

What were the odds of it all happening?

The answer: 1.4 percent.

In other words, if identical circumstances unfolded 100 times, the Bears would fail to win all three games via those shots on (more than) 98 of 100 occasions.

It’s simple math, really. I took each player’s season 3-point shooting percentage at that moment and multiplied them.

Singer, who had made just 4 of 29 shots from the 3-point line when he beat Washington, was converting .1379 from the arc.

Wallace, Cal’s best all-around player, nonetheless had made just 20 of 62 from 3-point range when he released his game-winner against USC. That’s .3226.

And Tarwater had made 18 of 58 before beating UCLA, a success rate of .3103.

So here’s the equation: .1379 x .3226 x .3103 = .0138.

Rounded, that comes to 1.4 percent.

My calculations do not include variables such as the impact of a specific defense or crowd noise, which would be virtually impossible to factor.

Nor do they reflect whether that player was in the midst of hot or cold streak at the time. For instance, Tarwater had made just two of his previous 13 3-pointers, which works out to .1538. That’s barely half of his season percentage that I used in the equation.

Likewise, the calculations do not suggest that any of the players’ independent chances of making his shot was just 1.4 percent.

But for all three to get it done? Barely one chance in a 100.

And yet they did.

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Basketball: One more time — Tarwater delivers as Bears win third straight on 3-point basket in final seconds

Cal senior Dwight Tarwater’s only regret after hitting the 3-point basket that beat UCLA 64-62 on Saturday was the effect it might have on his father back home in Tennesssee.

“He’ll probably start crying over the phone,” Tarwater said.

The Haas Pavilion crowd of 10,853 was cheering wildly — not crying — after the Bears won their third game in seven days on a 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Sam Singer was the hero last Sunday at Washington, nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 4 seconds left. Tyrone Wallace hit the game-winner at the buzzer Thursday against USC.

This time, with 18.9 seconds left, it was Tarwater’s turn.

“The biggest shot of my life, for sure,” said the senior transfer from Cornell.

Cal (15-9, 5-6 Pac-12) sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers by Jabari Bird around a steal and layup by UCLA’s Norman Powell in the final 3 minutes, but still trailed 62-61 after a timeout with 32 seconds left.

Tarwater, who had made just two of his previous 13 shots from beyond the arc, came into the game five seconds earlier when senior David Kravish fouled out.

“I said during the timeout, `Dwight, be ready to shoot that ball,’ “ Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said.

With Wallace maneuvering at the top of the key, Tarwater and Bird crossed on the baseline, headed to opposite corners. Bird was late to his spot, but Wallace found Tarwater in the left corner.

As 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney lunged toward him, the 6-6 Tarwater hoisted a high-aching shot over his reach. “I was hoping it would go in,” Tarwater said, “and it did.”

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