California 77, Stanford 71

Jorge Gutierrez saw a simple theme in California’s three

straight awful halves of basketball against Stanford over the past

five days. The Golden Bears were so concerned about their

postseason destination that they had forgotten to enjoy the

journey.

So Cal’s senior leader put on a second-half performance that was

a joy to watch, and he drove the Bears forward in the Pac-12

tournament in the process.

Gutierrez scored 19 of his 22 points after halftime, Harper Kamp

added 17 points, and Cal avenged last weekend’s loss to Stanford

with a 77-71 victory in the quarterfinals on Thursday night.

Justin Cobbs scored 15 points while playing strong defense on

Stanford freshman sensation Chasson Randle for the second-seeded

Bears (24-8), who won their rubber match with their Bay Area

nemesis. Stanford beat Cal 75-70 at Maples Pavilion last Sunday,

preventing the Bears from winning a share of the Pac-12

regular-season title.

When the Bears committed 14 turnovers in the first half and fell

behind 30-23 at Staples Center, Gutierrez – the Pac-12’s player of

the year and its top defensive player – knew what needed to

change.

”For us, this is a new season, and I think we kind of forgot

this is supposed to be fun,” Gutierrez said.

The second half was a blast for the high-energy guard, who made

6 of 8 shots after halftime. He finished with seven assists and six

rebounds for the Bears, who made a 15-3 run to open the second half

and never trailed again.

”That’s the kind of play we expect from Jorge, and it’s not

surprising,” Kamp said. ”He’s been doing that all year – the last

few years, really.”

After stumbling into the postseason with its first consecutive

losses of the year to Colorado and Stanford, Cal must win the

tournament to breathe easily about its NCAA fate. After top-seeded

Washington’s stunning loss to ninth-seeded Oregon State six hours

earlier, the Bears became the highest seed remaining in Los

Angeles.

”We really needed this win, there’s no question,” said Cal

coach Mike Montgomery, who improved to 6-3 with Cal against

Stanford, where he spent 18 seasons. ”It gives us 24. It gets us

to the semis. Losing three (straight) at the end of the year would

not be a good resume-builder for the next tournament.”

Andrew Zimmermann had a career-high 22 points and seven rebounds

for the seventh-seeded Cardinal (21-11), who couldn’t respond to

Cal’s second-half rally in the rivals’ rubber match after each

school won on its home floor during the regular season.

”We were right there,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. ”I

thought they made some plays at the end. Their seniors especially

just really willed them down the stretch.”

Randle scored 19 points for the Cardinal, but went 5 for 16 –

just 2 of 9 on 3-pointers. The freshman dropped 27 of his 30 points

on Arizona State in the first half of the Cardinal’s opening-round

victory.

Cal didn’t appear to try anything fancy against Randle, who

scored 17 points against the Bears at Maples Pavilion last weekend.

Cobbs’ man-to-man coverage largely limited Randle’s looks and

harassed him into ineffectiveness.

”They did a great job,” Randle said. ”(Cobbs) did a good job

chasing me off screens, keeping me in front of him.”

Gutierrez said the Cal coaching staff asked him if he wanted to

guard Randle, but the senior thought Cobbs would do the best

job.

Stanford had a seven-point lead at halftime despite just five

points from Randle. Cal, which committed just three turnovers after

halftime, went up 38-33 on Allen Crabbe’s 3-pointer 4 minutes into

the second half.

Cal maintained a narrow lead until Zimmermann’s putback layup

tied it at 60 with 6:06 to play. The Bears answered moments later

with an 8-0 run capped by Cobbs’ four straight free throws.

Cal led 73-64 on Gutierrez’s three-point play with 2:31 left,

but Randle finally awoke with five quick points. David Kravish drew

a key foul and hit two free throws with 40.7 seconds left, and the

Bears hung on.

Cal had won five of its previous six meetings with Stanford

before the Cardinal’s surprising victory last weekend. Gutierrez

even said he didn’t believe the matchup was a true rivalry, given

the Bears’ domination since Montgomery moved across the bay to

Berkeley.

The teams’ mutual dislike surfaced repeatedly in the final

minutes, with several players posturing and treading on the edge of

technical fouls.