Tight race continues atop Pac-12

BY foxsports • February 15, 2012

One game separates Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado from first-place California and Washington in the Pac-12.

Cal (20-6, 10-3) came to Southern California last weekend and left with its first season sweep of the SoCal schools since 1959. It also was the first time the Golden Bears completed a season sweep of UCLA in 18 years. They're off to their best start since 2001-02 for head coach Mike Montgomery, who for the 20th time in his career has posted a 20-win season. Southern California products Allen Crabbe (LA Price) and Justin Cobbs (Torrance Bishop Montgomery) made sure their return home was pleasant. Crabbe led the team in scoring with 19 points against USC, while it was Cobbs taking over with 18 points in the win against UCLA. This weekend they host the Oregon schools. On Thursday they can put a little more distance between them and the Ducks, a team they've beaten eight straight times. Oregon State holds claim to one of Cal's three conference losses, defeating the Golden Bears 92-85 last month in Corvallis.

Last weekend Washington (17-8, 10-3) was reminded just how tough it is to play in Eugene, losing 82-57 to the Ducks on Thursday. They barely escaped the trip with a split, defeating Oregon State 75-72. Otherwise they would have lost their hold on first place in the conference altogether. This week they return to Seattle to take on the Arizona schools. The guard tandem of Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten has shown why they're one of the toughest to handle in the conference, leading the Huskies in scoring in each of the past nine games. They're 7-2 in that stretch.

E.J. Singler was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after helping lead Oregon (18-7, 9-4) to a sweep of the Washington schools. He averaged 18 points and seven rebounds last weekend. He scored 23 points in the win over Washington State last Saturday; it was his fourth 20-point game of the season. During his past six games, he's averaging 17.1 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Ducks, who've won seven of their past nine. He's 13 points shy of 1,000 for his career. The Ducks will be in the Bay Area this weekend, beginning with Thursday's game at Cal. Montgomery is 35-9 in his career against the Ducks.

For a player who didn't have any scholarship offers at the end of his senior season at Brea Olinda High, Arizona guard Kyle Fogg has done quite well for himself. Now a senior for the Wildcats, he's tied with former Final Four MOP Miles Simon with 176 career 3-pointers. That's good for eighth on Arizona's career list. He's the conference's active scoring leader with 1,201 points. Arizona (18-8, 9-4) has turned things around quite well after the embarrassing exhibition loss to Seattle Pacific to start the season. The Wildcats will take a four-game win streak into this weekend's matchups with the Washington schools.

Of the top five teams in the conference, Colorado (17-8, 9-4) is the only team that has a losing record (2-4) in conference road games. The Buffaloes will play just one game this week, at Utah. In the first meeting, Colorado handled the Utes handily, 73-33. Freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie paced the Buffs with 19 points.

After a 5-1 start in Pac-12 play, Stanford (17-8, 7-6) has since lost five of its past seven games. The Cardinal split their most recent trip in Los Angeles, picking up a 12-point win at USC. Oregon State is on deck for the Cardinal. The last time those teams faced each other it took them four overtimes to settle it. Stanford came out on the winning end, 103-101.

It was déjà vu for UCLA (14-11, 7-6) in Saturday's loss to Cal. Similar to the first meeting on New Year's Eve, the game was close in the first half, and just like on New Year's Eve, Cal ran away from the Bruins in the second half. On Wednesday, UCLA will host USC. The Bruins will then head east for a non-conference affair against St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Saturday morning.

The Pac-12's leading scorer, Jared Cunningham was up to his old tricks last weekend, averaging 28 for Oregon State (15-10, 5-8). However, the end result was two losses. The Beavers have lost three of their past four with a trip to the Bay Area on tap. Oregon State was 11-4 to start the season, but since losing in four overtimes to Stanford, the Beavers are just 4-5.

Washington State (13-12, 5-8) forward Brock Motum is one of the hottest players in the conference, putting up 25.2 points over his past five games. Over his past nine he's averaging 21.3 points and 7.6 rebounds, shooting 59.1 percent from the field. He's led the team in scoring in each of the past six games. However, since the Faisal Aden injury, the Cougars have lost three of five. They have their next three games at home beginning with the Arizona schools this weekend and Washington next weekend.

Trent Lockett returned to the Arizona State (8-17, 4-9) lineup last weekend after missing six games with an ankle injury. The Sun Devils lost five of the games he was sidelined. In his return he scored 12 points in a win against Utah.

Utah (5-20, 2-11) holds the conference's longest losing streak: six games. The Utes have lost 10 of their past 11 games. On Saturday they'll host Colorado. In the first meeting the Buffaloes were a 73-33 winner in Boulder.

The next-longest losing streak in the conference belongs to USC (6-20, 1-12). The Trojans have lost four in a row. Their one and only win in Pac-12 play came last month against Utah. On Wednesday, USC will return to the Sports Arena, where the Trojans haven't played since 2006, to take on UCLA, only this time as the visitors.