The best team in the Pac-12 - well at least in my eyes - lost yesterday. Does it make it better that it was against a very good San Diego State team, which beat Arizona last week, on the road? Maybe slightly. Does it make tolerable since Cal was playing without 6-11 center Richard Solomon, who was suspended by head coach Mike Montgomery last week? Maybe a little.
Still, that's a game Cal could have won, should have won. But there was a two minute stretch in the first half where Jorge Gutierrez was out after taking an elbow to the face and trying to get his mouth to stop bleeding and Harper Kamp was on the bench with foul trouble where things got completely out of hand. Without that stretch, Cal is there at the end. Also the lack of Solomon's size and presence was a major loss. Cal isn't very deep.
The Golden Bears (6-2) were outscored 8-0 over the final 2 minutes of the first half, pulled even twice in the second half but never regained the lead. Then, with 20 seconds left in a two-point game, Cal allowed the Aztecs (8-2) to pluck an offensive rebound off the floor, leading to two critical free throws by Chase Tapley.
"Everybody just got caught standing around. We just needed one person to be aggressive to go get that rebound," said Allen Crabbe, who led the Bears with 23 points and nine rebounds. "It's the little things that really make the difference."
The Bears played without starting forward Richard Solomon, who was suspended indefinitely Friday "for conduct contrary to athletic department and university values." Coach Mike Montgomery said the sophomore is not in trouble with the law and confirmed he will rejoin the team, adding it's "unlikely" it will be as soon as Wednesday, when the Bears face San Jose State.
"He let his teammates down," Montgomery said. "Kids are lazy and do stupid stuff. As an adult, as someone who's supposed to help kids make the right decisions, I felt like I needed to take a stand on the thing."Meanwhile, the Bears' big rival - Stanford - picked up a big win over NC State. The Cardinal rallied from a 12-point deficit.
"Whenever our guys are down by that big a margin, we tell them we've still got a lot of game to play," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "(We tell them) we've just got to execute better and start picking things up on defense, and in the second half we really started making plays."
Senior forward Josh Owens led Stanford (8-1) with 19 points, followed by freshman guard Chasson Randle with 16. Sophomore guards Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Stanford never led at any point until Owens made two free throws with 3:06 remaining to put the Cardinal ahead at 65-64. After that, the Cardinal never trailed, hitting 11 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win.
"Our kids spend a lot of time practicing at the free-throw line, believe me," Dawkins said. "It was nice to see them rewarded for that, and it will continue to help our kids if we see situations like that again."
But in the end, it was the Stanford's defense -- which entered the game surrendering a Pac-12-low 54.2 points per game and holding opponents to a 38.2 percent field-goal shooting – that ultimately hurt N.C. State (5-3)This one hurts a little, but Oregon State roughed up my Montana Grizzlies, 71-46. It was a game for a little while, then Ahmad Starks triggered a 3-point shooting barrage that crushed my hopes and dreams of the Griz winning for the second straight year in Corvallis. It was odd seeing OSU play man-to-man quite a bit, but they also played that 1-3-1 zone that gave Montana fits, like it does to so many teams.
“They really are the closest physically to a Pac-12 team,” Robinson said. “They’ve got good size, they’ve got decent speed, they’ve got a good guard and we really wanted to use this as a barometer of where we stood with teams like this.”
So how did the Beavers fare?
Not too shabby.
The Beavers were more than up to the challenge, rolling to a 71-46 win on Sunday evening before a crowd of 5,518 in Gill Coliseum.
“It was a really good test for us at this time and I thought the guys did a great job,” Robinson said.
“It was surprising that we won going away.”
They used a determined defense, holding the Grizzlies’ shooters to a miserable 31.5 percent from the field (17 of 59).