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February 4, 2011

Allen Crabbe ices Cal's fourth straight win

BERKELEY -- 34 minutes and 46 seconds elapsed between the time that Allen Crabbe hit his first three-pointer and the time that he hit his second. But, good things come to those who wait.

With 13.5 seconds left in the game and the Cal basketball team clinging to a razor-thin one-point lead, the true freshman out of Los Angeles took a shovel pass from a tumbling Jorge Gutierrez on the right wing and buried a trey from the corner to give the Bears a 66-62 win over Arizona State for their fourth straight victory.

"I knew there were two seconds on the shot clock, so I had to get it off," Crabbe said. "I had to hit at least one tonight, and I'm glad it was that one. Jorge found me, and I just knocked it down."

Combined with several conference upsets on Thursday night -- including a 69-43 win by Oregon over Washington State and a 68-56 win by Oregon State over Pac-10 front-runner Washington -- Cal now sits just one game out of second place in the conference.

The Bears (13-9, 6-4 in the Pac-10) saw all five starters -- Crabbe, Harper Kamp (10), Markhuri Sanders-Frison (13), Gutierrez (a game-high 18) and Brandon Smith (11) -- score in double figures, the first time that has happened this season.

"I think we're playing with some confidence," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. "We feel like we can win. We've got a pretty good mix of players. Markhuri missed some shots that we're kind of used to him making inside. They did a good job and doubled down. We didn't come out very well. Harper is kind of a hybrid that does a few different things, Jorge is the driver, Allen is the shooter, Brandon is doing a heck of a job of running it. We've got a good combination of people out there that fit together pretty well."

The eventual hero Crabbe -- now likely Public Enemy No. 1 in Tempe, Ariz. -- was held to just 1-of-3 shooting in the first half, and could not seem to find any kind of open look.

"Allen was tentative. When you're the leading scorer and you put numbers up like he has, guys are going to start defending you. He was having a hard time getting shots. He found a good time to make a big one at the end. Had not Jorge kind of rolled the ball across the lane, they might have figured out that they needed to defend (Crabbe), but because he kind of lost control going through, I think they turned and looked and Allen was open and he hit that shot, which was absolutely huge. It's like the fumbleruskie.

"He's a shooter, and he's confident in his shot. I think that was one of the few times that he actually caught a ball stepping in with his feet set. That's what he does best. We were not able to get him that shot much. To Arizona State's credit, they took that away from him. That was one of the few times where he actually got an inside-outside look where he stepped in. Al, he's a guy who's going to score big shots, I think. He made his first shot and his last shot."

Even before his final shot, Crabbe came up big late in the second half, scoring seven of his 10 points after the break, with five of those coming within the final five minutes.

"It was just one of those nights and my shot was off," Crabbe said. "I wasn't moving around to get to open areas like I should have. The coaches were telling me that I was doing a lot of standing during their zone, and I've just got to move to better places to get the open shot."

The eagle-eyed Crabbe -- who came into the game shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three -- never lost confidence in his stroke.

"We have leaders on the team that keep telling me to shoot the ball, and I'm a shooter, so they tell me to shoot the ball," Crabbe said. "I've just got to stay confident in myself. The shots that I miss in the past, I've just got to keep in the past."

On the decisive play, Crabbe stayed calm and cool despite the raucous Haas Pavilion crowd of 7,129.

"I knew that he was going to get the ball to me because he had better position when the ball was loose, so the only thing he had to do was bend down and grab it; he's a very aggressive player," Crabbe smiled as he put his hand on Gutierrez's shoulder. "He had to get the ball first. I was just confident. You've got to have confidence when you shoot the ball. I can't just shoot it and be like, 'Well, hopefully it goes in.' That wouldn't work. I was just confident in myself and I just let it go."

Crabbe would never have had that opportunity to redeem himself for what had been a 1-for-5 night from three, had it not been for the scrappy play by Gutierrez.

"I actually saw him as soon as I grabbed the ball," Gutierrez said. "I don't remember who passed it to me, but I grabbed it and I saw him, and I just thought about penetrating and kicking it to him. I lost it, but I just tried to grab it and pass it to him and he made the shot."

Gutierrez was a holy terror on both ends of the floor, scoring 18 points on 4-of-13 shooting, 1-of-7 from three and 9-of-10 from the line. He also chipped in a game-high six assists and two steals in 39 minutes.

"I'm pretty tired right now," Gutierrez smiled after the game. "But I'm glad that we won. We knew their zone was hard to break, and we knew that they can shoot the ball, as well, so we had to work on both ends."

Crabbe's last-minute heroics saved what would otherwise have been a frighteningly inconsistent game from the Bears in which they coughed up a nine-point first-half lead and shot just 10-of-36 (27.8 percent) after starting the night hitting 9-of-12.

"We got the ball on the break, we were able to get to seams, they started matching up and did a better job of defending us," Montgomery said. "We've done that now twice in a row. Nothing changes, really. They started matching up and figuring out what we were trying to do, played us better, made some substitutions and it just changes. A game is ebbs and tides. It's ups and downs."

As Cal hit low-tide, the Sun Devils (9-13, 1-9) -- and senior guard Jamelle McMillan -- hit their stride. McMillan hit 3-of-4 three-pointers in the first half, making the Bears' two-point lead seem that much smaller.

"We let McMillan get away from us," Montgomery said. "McMillan did not play against us the first time. Obviously, he really hurt us early. We were up two at the half but we felt like if McMillan hadn't had those three threes, it probably wouldn't have been as much of a problem, but he did."

McMillan ended the night with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, as he was essentially neutralized in the second half.

"We were having a hard time and fortunately, we didn't lose our confidence," Montgomery said. "We actually got a string of pretty good shots and didn't make any of them. Then they ran out, got those three threes and got that lead because we just weren't recovering back on defense. Then, we took a time out, came back and got aggressive."

Arizona State, though, pulled out to a 7-point lead on a fast break three from Ty Abbott with 7:26 left in the game to cap a 9-0 run. At that point, Montgomery called a time out to refocus his team.

"We needed to play harder," Gutierrez said. "We were doing alright offensively, but we knew that we had to stop them. When we got the stops, we got confident and started making shots."

As the clock wore down, the game became more physical as the Bears slowly reeled in the Sun Devils. Over a 6:48 span starting with 11:27 left to go in the game, Cal scored 11 of its 16 points off of foul shots. The other five came from sophomore point guard Smith, who finished with 11 points, three assists and a steal.

"We got aggressive and started driving the ball, which you have to do against their match-up," Montgomery said. "If you stay in one place, they're going to match up with you. They're pretty athletic. They've got guys that are pretty good athletes, so all of the sudden, we start driving and getting to the line. They're moving around trying to find you when you're moving people. When you're not moving people, it's easy (for them). You start driving, and now it becomes a question of, 'Is it my guy? Do I switch him off? What do I do?'"

Despite shooting 44 percent (22-of-50) for the night, Arizona State fell completely silent in the final 7:26, not hitting a single shot from the field as the Bears came up with several big stops. Cal forced one shot clock violation and out-rebounded the Sun Devils 12-5, including nine defensive boards. Four of those rebounds -- and one huge block -- came from Kamp, who swatted away a shot by the Sun Devils' Trent Lockett with 49 seconds left to lead to Crabbe's eventual three-pointer.

"Harper's a good defender and at least minimized Lockett," Montgomery said. "Jorge's a good defender. He took Abbott and didn't give him any clean looks. Once we figured out that McMillan was going to make shots, we did a better job there. They didn't have any place to go for sure other than when we broke down."

Abbott -- who came into the game averaging 13.9 points -- scored nine points and shot just 3-of-9 from the field and 2-of-7 from three.

"I think that one of the things we've got the ability to do is focus in shorter time periods," Montgomery said. "I think they figured out that the only way we're going to do anything is to really put some energy into this thing. Part of the issue might be that the starters know that they're going to play a lot of minutes and they're thinking that they don't know if they can play that hard for 40. That's one of the dilemmas that they have. We were on the ropes, we focused and started playing harder, knowing that there were only seven minutes left that they had to do that."

Notebook
• In winning their fourth straight, the Bears have now run off their longest winning streak of the year. Cal now leads the all-time series with the Sun Devils, 36-35 and have won five of the last six meetings.

• The Bears improved to 5-3 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime this year. Six of Cal's 10 conference games have been determined by five or less or in OT.

• After trailing 59-52 with 7:26 left, the Bears ended the game on a 14-3 run.

• At the first media timeout 4:07 into the game, Cal and Arizona State were tied at 11-11 and had made nine of their combined 10 shots from the floor.

• The Bears didn't commit their first foul until 6:23 remained in the first half. On the night, Cal went 24-of-29 from the charity stripe while the Sun Devils shot 8-of-12. The Bears had 12 team fouls to Arizona State's 23.

• Cal went 5:37 without a field goal in the first half, from a Richard Solomon lay-up with 7:56 left to a Kamp hook shot with 2:19 to go. Kamp's shot tied the game at 32.

• Over his past three games, Gutierrez has scored 51 points (17.0 ppg), going 26-of-31 from the free-throw line in the process. In the previous four contests, Gutierrez averaged 8.3 points per game (33 total points). Thursday night, his 18 points, 7 boards, 6 assists and 2 steals were all game-highs.

• Kamp has now reached double-digits in scoring in the past 11 games.

• At halftime, Cal recognized the 407 student-athletes who earned at least a 3.0 GPA during the fall semester.


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