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January 21, 2011

Bruins spoil Crabbe's homecoming

LOS ANGELES -- Down by 14 points with just over three minutes left, all seemed to be said and done for the Cal basketball team on Thursday night in Westwood, but UCLA didn't count on Allen Crabbe, who scored 13 points in the final 3:30 to tie the game at 84-84, finishing off his run with a clutch three-pointer that brought the crowd of 8,650 to their feet.

But, Crabbe's dreams of hometown glory were short-lived, as the Bears fell on a last-second tip-in by Reeves Nelson to lose 86-84 at Pauley Pavilion.

"I think he knew that somebody had to get to the basket, and I think the pleasing thing was that we just didn't settle," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery of Crabbe's flurry. "We had hit one three all night, and they made 10. That's tough to overcome."

With 28 seconds left, Lazeric Jones drew a foul by Jorge Gutierrez and stepped to the line to shoot two. Jones drained both to put the Bruins (12-6, 4-2 in the Pac-10) up, 83-79.

Fed by Gutierrez with just under 24 seconds left, Crabbe drove the lane and missed the lay-in, but in the process drew sophomore Brendan Lane's fifth foul. He sunk both shots to bring the Bears within two, but on the next play, fouled Jones with 18.1 seconds left.

Jones went to the line, shooting two, and clanked his first shot. He took one deep breath, exhaled, and drained his second to put UCLA up by three. With Cal having gone 0-for-4 from beyond the arc up to that point, the lead seemed more than comfortable.

Crabbe then took a pass from Gutierrez on the right side beyond the arc, and as he released it into the air, he hung a goose neck up with his right hand, knowing that it would find the bottom of the net. Tie game.

"When it went in, I thought it was going to overtime," Crabbe said. "I just want to say that I'm proud of my team. We fought back, we didn't give up, and that was the main thing. We didn't show any weaknesses, and we still believed that we could make a last run, and we did."

But as quickly as Crabbe became the king of Los Angeles, that's how quickly he -- and the Bears -- fell.

A desperation a fade-away with 2.2 seconds left by Tyler Honeycutt bounced high off the rim, but super sophomore Nelson came flying in and nailed the put-back as the buzzer sounded, giving the Bruins their 12th conference win.

"He in-bounded the ball, went 90 feet and tipped it in," said junior forward Harper Kamp. "He was my man, we were in a little bit of a scramble, Tyler shot that shot and I was behind him, trying to foul him, and all of the sudden, Rich (Solomon) is all alone down there and Reeves got a running start and came right to him. I'll give him credit: he ran the floor hard and got the bucket."

For a team that has shot just 76 three-pointers all year -- and had made just 23 of them -- the last thing that Cal expected UCLA to do on Thursday night was make it rain from beyond the arc. But make it rain, the Bruins did, going 10-of-24 from three-point land.

"They shot the ball well, I mean, 10-for-24 from three, that's 30 points on 24 three-point shots," Montgomery said. "The zone forces that a little bit. I don't know if I would have expected them to shoot it that well. We could have bounced out of (zone) earlier and gone to man, but I think we would have been in foul trouble, I think we would have been exhausted, I think there would have been some other by-products of that."

The Bears switched back and forth from man defense to zone, but could not get a handle on a Bruins team that shot well above its 33.5 three-point shooting percentage coming into the game.

"Other than the threes, I think they key thing was that they really hurt us on the boards," Montgomery said. "That's why we kind of went big, to see if we could get some rebounds. They were missing some shots and then got some second-chance points."

UCLA netted a staggering 14 second-chance points -- including the final two of the game -- and out-rebounded Cal 35-26 on the night, led by Nelson's 10 boards. No Bear reached double-figures on the glass.

"They were more physical than we were, there's no question about that," Montgomery said. "I thought we got backed off a little bit. They had one sequence where they rebounded about four or five in a row and we were not even there. We didn't push back out and create a defensive perimeter. I thought they handled us physically with the big lineup. We battled, we gave ourselves a chance, and it's unfortunate that a lapse in a block-off at the end with 2.2 seconds left ends up costing you the game."

Cal (9-9, 2-4) kept it close early on, going into the break down by just six. The Bears even managed to knock out -- literally and figuratively -- UCLA big man Joshua Smith thanks to some rough-and-tumble play down low by Markhuri Sanders-Frison. But when denied the low post, the Bruins -- and sophomore Honeycutt -- went to the perimeter.

"They shot the ball well tonight. Looking back, it might have been one of their better shooting nights all year," Kamp said of UCLA, which went 30-of-60 on the night from the field. "We didn't do a good job on the offensive glass and we didn't keep them off the boards and we didn't do a good job on the ball screens."

In the first half alone, the Bruins attempted 13 three-point field goals to Cal's one -- a miss by Gutierrez. After making six of those attempts before halftime, UCLA kept the train going in the second, sinking 4-of-11. Honeycutt was the most troublesome, shooting 4-of-6 from three on the night.

"They did a good job of playing us outside," said Kamp, who led the Bears with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting. "We did a little better job of drawing towards the ball at the end, but we probably should have been doing that and being a little more aggressive all game."

The young man guarding the hot-handed Honeycutt most of the night -- true freshman and Los Angeles native Crabbe -- was dinged for two fouls during the first half, and was shut down by junior Malcolm Lee.

"It was a learning experience for me," Crabbe said. "In the end, I just said that I have to be aggressive if we're going to make those runs. I need to help my team, and I did all that I could. I just need to start earlier, try to get to the basket and kick it to open people. They did a good job defending me, coming off the screens. I would come on a curl and they would bring up a big, but I felt like I was getting intimidated. I was doing what I was doing earlier in the season: not being aggressive enough. It sucks that I started doing all the aggressiveness late, but I just have to learn from this and learn that I have to be aggressive for 40 minutes."

The first half saw seven of nine Bears players record at least one infraction. Both Crabbe and Sanders-Frison -- two of Cal's go-to scorers -- entered halftime with a pair of fouls.

"The policy has been that we try to take them out so we have some ability in the second half, but I thought, if you're going to be aggressive, you've got to take your chances with the fouls," Montgomery said. "Some of the guys seemed to be a step slower. I don't think you can blame Allen, coming back to LA in his first game as a freshman, maybe he was a little bit nervous, but they did a really good job off of pick-and-rolls, I will say that. They came off some pick-and-rolls and they shot it and we didn't do a very good job of showing."

Thanks to that early foul trouble, Crabbe was unable to get in a rhythm as he has the past four games for the Bears, and shot 0-for-2 from the floor, recording just two points on 2-of-3 shooting from the line. Sanders-Frison, despite being rid of Smith, recorded 10 points but only five boards in 24 minutes. Thanks to a charge which knocked Smith out -- he hit the back of his head on the floor falling back from a shoulder by Sanders-Frison -- the Bears' center was in early foul trouble, and couldn't risk drawing any more contact down low, which normally opens things up for Crabbe on the perimeter.

Gutierrez's poor shooting didn't help matters, as he went 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and 6-of-13 from the floor.

"Other than Allen, I don't think we have a really good three-point shooting team," Montgomery said. "We don't have a lot of people that shoot threes, so primarily, they took Allen away early."

After shutting down Crabbe, the Bruins led by at least 10 points for 10:06 of the second half, thanks in large part to Nelson.

"He's really physical, and he just kind of barges his way around like a bull in a china shop," Montgomery said. "He ends up getting some things done."

Nelson went 10-of-14 from the field, 4-of-6 from the line, recorded 3 slam dunks -- two on the fast break -- and secured his seventh double-double of the season, tying for a game-high 24 points with his teammate Jones. Nelson also threw in two steals in his 37 minutes on the floor.

The Bears return to action on Saturday at the Galen Center against USC. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm.

Notebook
• True freshman Richard Solomon -- another Los Angeles native -- played 20 minutes on Thursday night, scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and 4-of-6 from the line, and even threw in two big dunks for good measure.

• Four Bears recorded double-figure point totals, including Kamp, Solomon, Crabbe and Gutierrez, who finished with 15 points.

• Cal scored 18 points off of 13 UCLA turnovers, while the Bruins netted eight points off of nine Bears turnovers.


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