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Women’s basketball: Cal wins Pac-12 opener

Here’s a video of coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s post-game talk with her team: http://video.pac-12.com/cal-locker-room-celebration

Gennifer Brandon had 17 points and 16 rebounds and Brittany Boyd contributed 15 points and nine rebounds, leading the 5th-ranked Cal women to a 78-59 win over USC in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament at Seattle.

The second-seeded Bears (28-2) set a school record with their 28th victory and another with a 16th consecutive win. Cal scored the game’s first 11 points and dominated the boards, 53-34.

Afure Jemerigbe scored 15 points for Cal, which plays in Saturday’s semifinal against UCLA, which beat Utah 54-43. This marks the seventh straight season the Bears have advanced to the tournament semifinals.

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Basketball: Stanford post-mortem

First of all, apologies for our technical problems Wednesday night. The Internet connection at Haas Pavilion was shaky too — probably the result of having 11,877 folks in the building — but that has nothing to do with our blog issues. I have informed the proper authorities and we will see if we can find a permanent remedy.

Now, about last night . . .

WHAT HAPPENED: The Bears played seven games in a row where they either performed superbly or, at worst, well enough to win. Defensively, they’d been very good. That was not the case against Stanford. Coach Mike Montgomery said they were “passive” on defense, and I thought they panicked on offense when the game started to get away early in the second half.

The fact is, Stanford’s not a great matchup for Cal because the Cardinal big men are effective playing on the perimeter, where Cal’s bigs cannot easily guard them. When Richard Solomon went out with his fourth foul, Montgomery actually went with Ricky Kreklow — who hadn’t played since Jan. 3 — instead of Robert Thurman, because Thurman can’t guard either Dwight Powell or Josh Huestis 20 feet from the basket.

Even so, a disappointing effort if you’re a Cal fan. The season’s first sellout, everything on the line, riding a hot streak and playing the rival school . . . you’d expect more from the Bears.

FALLOUT: None from the Pac-12 office, which announced Thursday there will be no further punishment for anyone involved in the late-game skirmish. To be honest, there were no real punches delivered, so it was more shoving than fighting. And we know shoving at Haas Pavilion this season, right?

Bottom line, the incident was unfortunate and got the two schools some unwanted airtime on ESPN. But it was hardly the crime of the century.

And, frankly, I didn’t see any way the Pac-12 office was going to suspend anyone from a team that may feel like it needs a win in the conference tournament to assure itself a spot in the NCAAs. One less Pac-12 team in the field, a lot less $$$. Pragmatism rules the day.

EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE: We’ll find out some things about this team next Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Leadership has been a season-long question, and someone will have to make sure the Bears are able to put this game in their rear-view mirror. Certainly they have plenty of down time to get past it. Almost too much, Montgomery said this week. But maybe an extra day or two will help in this instance, where Cal must refocus to what’s next, not what was lost. 

SECOND CHANCES: Rumor has it the Bears still can earn a share of the Pac-12 title? Well, yes, but don’t count on it. They need two Oregon losses – tonight at Colorado (maybe) and Saturday at Utah (don’t think so), plus a UCLA loss Saturday morning at Washington (possible). At this point, they seem most likely to wind up with a No. 3 seed for the Pac-12 tournament. 

THE BIG PICTURE: The Bears dropped from No. 43 to No. 50 in the RealTimeRPI.com rankings — a sizable slide for one defeat. But ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi still doesn’t have them among his “last four byes,” meaning the last four teams to squeeze in to the dreaded “First Four” NCAA tournament games in Dayton, Ohio. If you slip to that point, you get very nervous. Short of that, Cal probably still is on solid footing.

On the other hand, a win next Thursday in Vegas couldn’t hurt.

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Women’s basketball: Too much Nneka Ogwumike, but Bears excited about NCAA tournament

Ultimately, the Cal women had no answer for Stanford star Nneka Ogumike, who scored 29 points in the Cardinal’s 77-62 win in the finals of the Pac-12 women’s tournament.

But the Bears will earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, and they can’t wait.

“It’s not the end for us,” Cal freshman Reshanda Gray said. “We’re still going to go dancing.”

First-year coach Lindsay Gottlieb said she believes the Bears (24-9) should be seeded as a No. 6 or 7 when the pairings are announced Monday.

“I think we’ve earned that,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our effort today. I have pasasionate players and they’re disappointed because they want to win. They didn’t come here for second place.”

Layshia Clarendon scored 20 points for Cal and freshman Brittany Boyd added 13, including three 3-pointers in the first half that helped the Bears overcome an early 17-4 hole.

Ogwumike, named tournament MVP for the third time, tied a record with 71 points in the tournament and made her first three 3-point baskets of the season. Her sophomore sister Chiney set a record with 37 rebounds in three games.

“I think they might be the best frontcourt ever,” Gottlieb said, “and that was before Nneka starting hitting 3s from 30 feet.”

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Basketball: Colorado game thread

FINAL SCORE: Colorado 70, Cal 59. The Buffaloes (22-11) advance to the Saturday tournament final against Arizona. The Bears (24-9) wait. And try to remain confident their resume of work gets them a bid from the NCAA on Sunday. Once more, CU’s defense proved troublesome to Cal. In three games between the teams this season, the Bears averaged 57.7 points — 15 below their average. The Buffs’ front-court 1-2 punch of Andre Roberson and Austin Dufault outscored Cal’s Harper Kamp and David Kravish by a combined 32-12. Add that to a poor start and 17 turnovers, and anything else the Bears did was pretty much canceled out. Crabbe finished with 18 points, eight of them in the final 3:48.

1:40 2nd H: CU not missing at the free throw line. Buffs lead 65-56.

3:18 2nd H: A 3-pointer by Crabbe halted a 10-0 Colorado run, but the Buffs lead 59-49 and timing is running out.

5:46 2nd H: CU leads 54-46. Carlon Brown taking over for the Buffs — he has their past five points and 15 for the game. Cal trailed just 49-46 when Gutierrez converted a drive, but he missed the FT and CU answered with a 5-0 run. Crabbe just picked up his fourth PF. He will stay in.

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Women’s basketball: Cal’s Gennifer Brandon sets rebounding record, then sets record straight

Cal sophomore Gennifer Brandon, who had 13 points and 15 rebounds in the Bears’ 64-49 win over Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals, broke the school’s single-season rebounding record in the process.

Brandon has 319 rebounds, two more than Ashley Walker totaled in 2007-08.

“She’s just an absolute monser on the glass,” Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of Brandon. “When she wants to do that, I don’t know if there’s anyone who can keep her off the boards.”

Asked afterward why she rolls up the hem of her basketball shorts during games, Brandon explained,  ”I do it just to be comfortable in my uniform. I roll my shorts because I don’t like them to touch my knees.

“I don’t like to feel clothes, if that doesn’t sound weird . . . so I feel like I’m running with the wind.”

Brandon and the second-seeded Bears (23-8) take on top-seeded and No. 2 ranked Stanford (30-1) in Saturday’s tournament finale at the Staples Center.

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Basketball: Colorado scouting report

TIPOFF: 8:30 p.m. Friday at Staples Center, Los Angeles. TV: CSNBA. Radio: 910-AM. 

Having avenged a four-day old loss to Stanford, the Golden Bears now turn their attention to Colorado, which beat them one week before that.

“They’re a solid basketball team,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “They match up well with us. We’ll have our hands full.”

After the Bears polished off Stanford 77-71 Thursday night at the Staples Center, the Buffs topped Oregon 63-62 when sophomore forward Andre Roberson scored on a putback with 13 seconds left.

CU and Cal split their two regular-season matchups, each winning at home. The Buffaloes stampeded Cal 70-57 in Boulder on Feb. 26, holding Jorge Gutierrez scoreless.

Gutierrez came alive Thursday — three days after being named Pac-12 Player of the Year. He scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half to help spark Cal’s win over Stanford.

Buffs coach Tad Boyle said Gutierrez isn’t the only Cal player that concerns him.

“They’re a great team. They’ve got a lot of good players, a lot of different weaspons,” Boyle said.

Fatigue is likely to be a factor for both teams. Colorado will be playing its third game in as many days, having opened Wednesday with a win over Utah.

Cal had not played until Thursday, but Montgomery used four of his starters at least 36 minutes to make sure the Bears got the win he believes puts them over the hump in the chase for an NCAA tournament berth. Cal’s reserves played a total of just six minutes in the second half.

Friday’s winner will face the survivor of the Arizona vs. Oregon State semifinal in Saturday’s 3 p.m. title game. Cal has reached the conference championship game twice — in 2006 and 2010 — but has never won the event. 

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Women’s basketball: Bears face WSU in semis

TIPOFF: Cal (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12) vs. Washington State (13-19, 5-13) in Pac-12 tournament semifinals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Friday, 2:30 p.m. TV: CSNBA.

GAME THEME: The No. 2 seed Bears got a break Thursday when No. 11 Washington State upset No. 3 USC 69-65 on the Trojans’ home floor at the Galen Center. USC had beaten Cal twice this season. The Bears toppled WSU 60-55 at Berkeley in their only meeting. Cal is playing in its sixth conference tournament semifinal, but won just once (2008) in the previous five tries.

NOTES: Cal survived some offensive woes to beat Colorado 68-59 in its quarterfinal game. All-Pac-12 guard Layshia Clarendon led the Bears with 12 points, but shot 4 for 13 . . . The Cougars feature senior guard Jazmine Perkins, a Berkeley HS grad, who had 12 points in the win over USC . . . WSU went winless in February and won just once between Jan. 5 and March 1, but now has beaten sixth-seeded Oregon State and the Trojans.

 

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Basketball: Stanford game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 77, Stanford  71.  The Bears improved to 24-8 and give their NCAA hopes a huge lift. Gutierrez finished with 22 points — 19 in the second half — to go with sevemn assists and six rebounds. In other words, he played like the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Kamp had 17 poins and seven rebounds, Crabbe 11 points and eight rebounds, Cobbs 15 points and Kravish 10 points. The Bears had just three second-half turnovers after coughing up 14 in the first half. Zimmerman scored a career-high 22 for Stanford and Randle had 19 the night after going for 30 vs. ASU. This is the first group of Stanford seniors since 1988 that will leave school without having played in the NCAA tournament. But the Bears are still alive.

0:15.7 2nd H: Stanford got within 73-69 before two FTs by Kravish pushed the lead to six points. Cobbs just made the first of two and it’s 76-69.

3:55 2nd H: An acrobatic drive by Crabbe and a fastbreak layup by Gutierrez have given the Bears a 66-62 lead.

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