Cal holds off Stanford in Pac-12 quarters

LOS ANGELES  The Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament almost became a free-for-all Thursday night.

No. 1 seed Washington had already lost. No. 2 Cal was losing to Stanford.

But California guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, and forward Harper Kamp pushed their team into the lead and then into a 77-71 win that puts the Golden Bears in the semifinals Friday.

“Kamp and Gutierrez kind of willed (Cal) down the stretch of the ballgame,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “They made plays.”

The Bears overcame a 30-23 halftime deficit by outscoring Stanford 15-3 to open the second half. Gutierrez scored six points in that stretch and had 19 of his 22 in the second. Harper had 17 points and seven rebounds.

“They looked like all-conference players,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said of Gutierrez and Harper, the team’s only seniors. “That’s what it takes for us to win.”

Cal took advantage of a critical turning point in the final minute when Kamp missed a jump shot and Stanford appeared to get the rebound with a chance to reduce a 73-69 Cal lead. But instead, the Cardinal’s Anthony Brown was called for a foul, and David Kravish converted two free throws for a six-point lead with 40.7 seconds left.

“We were right there,” Dawkins said of his team, which finished the season 21-11. “They made plays at the end. They were able to score, and they shot a very high percentage for the game and the second half.”

So true. The Bears (24-8) were 57.7 percent in the second half (15 of 26) and 52 percent overall. They were 0 for 4 from the free-throw line early on, but made 21 of 27 in the second half.

Conversely, Stanford shot just 37.7 percent. Forward Andrew Zimmerman, who came into the game averaging just 3.5 points, led Stanford with 22 and added seven rebounds. Chasson Randle scored 19, but was just 5 of 16 from the field.

In Friday’s semifinals, No. 4 seed Arizona plays No. 9 Oregon State, which upset Washington, at 6:00 p.m. Cal meets the winner of the Colorado-Oregon game.