Cal basketball: Charles Barkley expecting big things from Bears, who open vs. Hawaii

Analyst Charles Barkley may not always appreciate the Warriors but he gave some love to Cal on Selection Sunday, calling the Golden Bears the most talented team in the country aside from North Carolina.

“We appreciate Charles for the shoutout,” Cal freshman Jaylen Brown said. “Now we’ve got to make sure we live up to the potential everyone says we have.”

The Bears (23-10) were given a No. 4 seed – their highest since the selection committee began the seeding process in 1979 – and will face Hawaii on Friday in Spokane, Washington. The game will be televised on TBS, with an 11 a.m. PT tipoff.

Cal is playing in its 19th NCAA tournament, its first since 2013.

The Rainbow Warriors (27-5), coached by former Saint Mary’s College assistant Eran Ganot, were regular-season co-champs and tournament winner in the Big West Conference. One of their top players is senior point guard Roderick Bobbitt, an Oakland native and former Castro Valley High star.

The Cal-Hawaii winner will advance to Sunday to face either No. 5 Maryland (25-8) or No. 12 South Dakota State (26-7).

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Cal basketball: No heads hanging in Bears’ locker room after overtime loss to Utah

Disappointment mixed with exhaustion in the Cal locker room after the Bears lost 82-78 in overtime to Utah in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday night.

But even after being denied just their third trip ever to the tournament’s final night, the Bears weren’t feeling sorry for themselves.

“It hurts, but at the same time it’s not the end of the season for us,” said Jabari Bird, who twice in the final 34 seconds of regulation seemingly won the game fopr the Bears.

“On to the NCAA tournament,” added teammate Jordan Mathews.

The 24th-ranked Bears (23-10) had plenty of chances to win before losing for just the second time in 11 games. They will learn their NCAA opponent and destination on Sunday.

Cal had designs on winning its first Pac-12 tournament title, but Utah center Jakob Poeltl had different ideas. The sophomore 7-footer from Austria, contained reasonably well in the first half, scored five of his 29 points in overtime and the 12th-ranked Utes (26-7) got the last word in a game that featured 16 lead changes and did not end until 11:45 p.m.

“Poeltl made big baskets,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I guess that’s why he’s MVP of the league.”

The No. 2 seed Utes will play in the championship game Saturday night against top-seeded Oregon, which won its own overtime game, 95-89, to send home defending tournament champion Arizona.

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Pac-12 tournament: Oregon escapes Arizona in OT

Top-seeded Oregon survived a last-second inbounds gaffe in regulation to claim a 95-89 overtime victory over Arizona in the first semifinal game of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Friday night.

The Ducks (27-6) will play either Cal or Utah on Saturday night, hoping to add a Pac-12 tournament title to the regular-season crown they won. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Oregon never trailed and led by as many as 17 points before the defending tournament champion Wildcats (25-8) closed with a rush. They got within 77-76 on a 3-pointer by Gabe York with 0.7 seconds left, but Oregon only needed to inbound the ball to secure the win.

Instead, Chris Boucher briefly froze, then threw the ball to Arizona forward Mark Tollefsen, who was fouled as he tried hoisting a 10-foot shot from the left baseline.

A graduate transfer from USF and native of Danville, Tollefsen missed the first free throw, then made the second to force overtime.

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Pac-12 basketball: Conference tournament moving to new Las Vegas arena in 2017

After four seasons playing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced Friday that the conference tournament will be moved to the city’s new T-Mobile Arena beginning next season.

The Pac-12 signed a three-year deal to play in the 18,500-seat facility after a unanimous vote of the league’s presidents and chancellors. The new arena is located virtually across the street from the MGM Grand.

“The fundamentals of why we’re here in Las Vegas have exceeded our expectations, and we’re confident there is a lot more capacity,” said Scott, who moved the event to Las Vegas in 2013 after a run at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

“Moreover, the T-Mobile Arena is going to be a place fans want to see. It will create a level of excitement that will help grow the event.”

The MGM Grand Garden Arena, with a capacity of 12,916, sold out every session this year for the first time. Because tickets in the early rounds are sold for two-game sessions, there often are empty seats when a particular fan base exits after its team has played.


Cal basketball: Five keys to beating Utah

Cal and Utah clash for the third time this season Friday night in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Tipoff is 8:45 pm, with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship game. The Bears (23-9) split two games this season with the Utes (24-7) and are gunning for their first Pac-12 tournament title.

Here are five keys to Cal beating the Utes:

— Pressure Poeltl: The Bears are unlikely to stop Utah center Jakob Poeltl. The 7-foot Austrian, who was Pac-12 Player of the Year, totaled 40 points and 19 rebounds in two games against Cal. But big men Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks avoid severe foul trouble, stay on the floor and at least make Poeltl work for whatever he gets.

— Neutralize Kuzma: Poeltl’s frontcourt sidekick, 6-foot-9 sophomore Kyle Kuzma, is one of the Pac-12’s most underrated players. He shot 11 for 12 from the field and scored 23 points in the Utes’ quarterfinal win over USC. The Bears cannot allow a repeat of that performance. When the teams met in Salt Lake City, Kuzma shot 6 for 9 and scored 15 points in a Utah victory. But at Berkeley, they held Kuzma to 2 points on 1 for 7 from the field and the Bears won.

— Limit turnovers: When the Bears don’t give the ball away, they can be very good. Too often — including in Thursday’s win over Oregon State when they squandered an early 17-5 lead — they are careless with the ball. Five giveaways in less than 7 minutes allowed OSU to fight back within 19-17. It was game on from there.

— Stretch the defense: Utah, with its frontline size, will make it difficult for the Bears to score in the paint out of their halfcourt offense. Ball movement will be imperative as Cal tries to find good perimeter shots for Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews. If they find the range, the inside opens up.

— Finish strong: Only a collapse in the final 2 minutes at Arizona last week stands between the Bears and a 10-game win streak. It was not unlike their finishing fizzle at Virginia where they had positioned themselves for a huge road win. The difference against OSU on Thursday was an efficient dash to the finish line. They scored 19 points in the final five minutes, without a turnover.


Cal basketball: Pac Networks love for Jordan Mathews

Pac-12 Networks analysts Lamar Hurd and Kevin O’Neill dished some serious on-air praise toward Cal junior guard Jordan Mathews in the post-game show Thursday night after Mathews scored 17 points in the Bears’ win over Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament.

Hurd, a former Beavers player, said: “He is the MVP of their team. Yes, even with the lottery picks, he is the most valuable guy. We’re talking about the guy that you cannot go without and it’s him.

“KO (O’Neill) uses the one word that describes him the best – constant. He is always going to show up and even if he’s off, you still have to defend him to 25 feet.”

O’Neill, the former Arizona and USC coach, has referred to Mathews as the Bears’ MVP in the past.

“He’s as good a player mentally and physically combined as there is in the Pac-12,” O’Neill said.


Cal basketball: Bears survive Oregon State, face Utah in Pac-12 tournament semifinals

Having survived the son of a legend and a player few fans probably recognized, Cal moves on to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament and a duel against No. 2 seed Utah and star center Jakob Poeltl.

The Bears (23-9) won their ninth game in 10 on Thursday night, overcoming lapses with some brilliance to score a 76-68 victory over Oregon State at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Freshman Ivan Rabb had a career night with 21 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, Jabari Bird hit a series of timely 3-points on the way to scoring 20, Tyrone Wallace dished a career-best 10 assists and Jordan Mathews scored 17.

And still it was a chore to overcome the Beavers (19-12), led by senior guard Gary Payton II and a skinny freshman named Derrick Bruce.

“We’re in a good place right now,” Bird said. “We have a good little flow going and we’re looking to take it into (Friday’s) game against Utah.”

The Bears, already assured of a spot in the NCAA tournament field, are seeking their first-ever Pac-12 tournament title.

Slowing down Poeltl, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, will be among the Bears’ top priorities when the Bears and Utes tip off at 8:45 p.m.. The 7-foot sophomore from Austria totaled 40 points and 19 rebounds in two regular-season meetings the teams split.

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Pac-12 basketball: Utah holds off USC rally, awaits Cal-OSU winner in semifinals

Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Taylor hit timely 3-pointers in the final 2:25 as second-seeded Utah held off a late charge by USC for an 80-72 victory in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

The Utes (25-7) will play either Cal or Oregon State in Friday’s late semifinal.

The Trojans (21-12), who likely sewed up an NCAA tournament bid with their 24-point rout of UCLA on Wednesday, fought back from 13 points down to trail just 69-67.

But Kuzma hit a 3-pointer, then Taylor made one a minute later, stretching the Utes’ lead to 75-69. When Kuzma dunked on a breakaway with 39 seconds left, Utah led by eight.

Kuzma shot 11 for 12 and scored 22 points to go with seven rebounds. Center Jakob Poeltl added 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots and Lorenzo Bonam made all five of his shots on the way to scoring 14.

Guards Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs scored 24 and 16 points, respectively, for the Trojans.

Earlier Thursday:

— Arizona 82, Colorado 78: The defending champion Wildcats (25-7) led by as many as 22 points late in the first half, then held on to advance to the semifinals. They will face top-seeded Oregon on Friday at 6:15 p.m.

Freshman Allonzo Trier scored 23 points and Ryan Anderson had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Arizona. Gabe York scored 15. George King led Colorado (22-11) with 22 points and Josh Scott had 16 points and 13 rebounds.

— Oregon 83, Washington 77: The top-seeded Ducks (26-6) had their hands full with the Huskies (18-14), up just two points with 1:36 left before stretching out to secure the win. Chris Boucher had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Ducks, Elgin Cook scored 19, Tyler Dorsey had 17 and Dillon Brooks tossed in 15.

Andrew Andrews and Marquese Chriss each scored 19 for the Huskies one day after they sent Stanford home in the opening round.


Pac-12 basketball: Gary Payton cheers his son, alma mater toward possible NCAA bid

Gary Payton was yelling encouragement to his son and talking trash to the Arizona State student section.

It was like the old days for The Glove, except that the 47-year-old Oakland native and Naismith Hall of Famer is a spectactor and proud father these days.

“This is just great, especially because they’re winning and have an opportunity to go to the NCAA tournament,” he said Wednesday night after watching Gary Payton II lead alma mater Oregon State to a 75-66 win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“I think that they secured it right now with this win,” Payton said of the NCAA bid that has eluded the Beavers since his All-America senior season in 1990. “After 26 years, and now he’s taking Oregon State back. It’s a great feeling.”

Next up for OSU is Cal in a quarterfinal game Thursday at 8:45 p.m., and there still is pressure on the Beavers, who may not yet have the same ringing endorsement from the selection committee that their most famous alum provided.

The Beavers beat the Bears 77-71 in Corvallis back on Jan. 9, but Cal squared things with an 83-71 win at Berkeley on Feb. 13.

“They’ve got to play like they played at Oregon State,” Payton said. “They’ve got to pressure Cal. They’ve got to make them feel uncomfortable.

“Cal is a very athletic team. If you let them get in a rhythm and do the things they like – they like to run, they like to jump, they like to dunk – you’ve got to keep them out of that keep pressure on them.

“Make them play defense and get them in foul trouble. That’s what they did at Oregon State – they got them in foul trouble and kept running at them.”

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