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February 6, 2011

Bears fall to Arizona in triple-overtime

BERKELEY -- This is the kind of game that blood, sweat and tears were made for. There was the hot, loud, raucous and unruly home crowd. There was the young, inexperienced, upstart underdog. You had your perennial powerhouse. You had three overtimes. You had four of the top players all foul out.

Unfortunately for the Cal basketball team, however, Pac-10 frontrunner Arizona was just good enough on Saturday night, besting the Bears 107-105 in triple overtime at Haas Pavilion.

"It's a tough loss. I mean, what can you say? They knew they had chances. They played their hearts out. They played their butts off," said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. "They weretired. Guys did everything. If we can just get a little smarter, in terms of knowing what's on the shot clock and knowing circumstances -- those kinds of things -- we close that thing; we shut the door. We didn't do that."

If there were any questions left about the toughness of this young team, they were put to bed, stifled, silenced and answered, as the Bears pushed the No. 21 Wildcats (20-4, 9-2 in the Pac-10) through 55 minutes of basketball -- the longest game at Haas Pavilion since a 107-102 five-OT win over Oregon on Feb. 10, 1977.

"It was a heck of a basketball game," said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. "You know it's a shame that one of us had to lose. I almost feel bad winning because we could have lost this game 10 times."

By the numbers, the game was just flat-out staggering. In total, the two teams tallied 143 shots, 56 fouls, 84 rebounds and 21 three-pointers in 550 man-minutes of basketball. To say the least, the game's leading scorer -- Cal's junior power forward Harper Kamp -- was exhausted -- and frustrated -- despite recording his second career double-double with a career-high 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting and 11-of-14 from the line.

"Everyone is pretty bummed. I think it would be selfish of me to take full responsibility for the loss, even though I feel like I let us down on a few key plays," Kamp said. "I think everyone feels that they're responsible, and we all wish we had made that play when we needed to, but we win as a team and we lose as a team. We've got to keep our heads up and keep working. There were plenty of chances to win, and we just didn't quite capitalize."

At the end of regulation, with the Bears up by five with 42 seconds left, Kamp drove the lane for a lay-up and drew the foul from Arizona sophomore forward Solomon Hill. After the normally automatic Kamp missed the free throw, the Wildcats' star sophomore forward Derrick Williams pulled down one of his game-high 18 boards and pushed the ball up to point guard Lamont Jones, who dished it to Kevin Parrom for a three, bringing Arizona within two. But, even then, Cal (13-10, 6-5) had the chance to close things out. A foul on the Bears' point guard Brandon Smith with 21.9 seconds left sent the sophomore to the charity stripe for two, but he only managed to hit one.

On the very next play, Jones drove the right baseline, hit a floater and drew Cal senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison's fifth foul. Jones sunk the free-throw try to tie the game with 16.6 seconds left, and when Kamp tried to go up for a flip-in on the ensuing possession, but the ball found only rim.

In the third overtime, with 12 seconds left and the Bears down by three, Kamp hit one of two free throws, and as he missed his second off the back iron, Smith -- who had a game-high 11 assists -- flew in for the rebound. He dished a frantic pass out to Kamp on the right wing for a mid-range jumper, but Kamp's shot fell short.

But even though Kamp did have his fair share of missed chances, Montgomery wasn't about to lay all the blame his junior big man, who by any metric had one of the greatest nights of his career with 33 points, 10 boards, two assists and two steals, playing every single second of the game's 55 minutes.

"He was unbelievable. But, I mean, the tough part of it is, that they make a three to tie, and we get down and get a lay-up to win, and we don't get it. They shouldn't have had a three-point play," Montgomery said. "We should have let them score the two, take it out of bounds, they have to foul us and now, there's less time. Instead, we go over and we foul. It was the only way they could get to overtime. We come down and actually get kind of a point-blank deal (at the end of the game), and that's tough. I mean, (Kamp) played an unbelievable game. We had that, and if Brandon makes two free throws, we go up four and then the three doesn't tie it. Those are the guys that are veteran guys -- Brandon had 11 assists again, and hits a big three late -- but when you get to late in the game, you've only got so many chances to win."

The Bears had managed to effectively neutralize Williams -- who shot 22 free throws against Cal the last time the two squads squared off -- and held him to 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 1-of-1 from three and 1-of-4 from the line. Williams also fouled out at the end of regulation.

"We wanted to keep the ball out of the high post with Williams," Montgomery said. "It's two-fold. One is that he gets 18 rebounds anyway, so obviously, we didn't do a very good job of blocking off. But, he had 22 free throws last time. That's one. And, two, he gets us in foul trouble, because he's driving on our center. We tried to protect him, and probably did a pretty good job, but in the first half, in particular, we exaggerated it so much that we gave up threes that we might not have."

In the first half, the Wildcats hit four of their first five threes against Cal's 2-3 zone, and finished the stanza having hit 6-of-14 from beyond the arc. Three of those came from Jordin Mayes, who scored all nine of his points in the first half.

"It actually hurt us in the first half," Montgomery said. "We probably over-exaggerated the way we wanted to handle him, and I think that, as a result of that, we gave up some stuff on the weak side. I think that, sometimes, our guys really take us literally in terms of without really making a value judgment. We say, 'We need to do this,' and that's exactly what they do. Mayes got those three threes and we shouldn't have given that up."

When it wasn't Mayes, it was Parrom. After scoring just five points in the first half on 2-of-4 shooting and 1-of-2 from three, Parrom finished with 25 points on 9-of-12 from the field, 3-of-5 from three and 4-of-5 from the line. He also pulled down six boards, dished out six assists and tallied two steals.

"The ironic part of it was that they ended up hurting us with Parrom, there," Montgomery said. "We couldn't square Parrom at the point of attack, so it was a different sort of a deal. Derrick Williams goes left every time and Parrom ends up going right every time and we don't make those adjustments. That's point-of-attack stuff, and he got to the basket and scored the ball quite a few times."

While Parrom was getting to the bucket, the Bears put up as much of a fight as they could on defense thanks to the inimitable Jorge Gutierrez. Gutierrez was the victim of several non-calls throughout the night, but it only fueled his defensive intensity. Gutierrez played all of the first 40 minutes, scoring a career-high 25 points as he hit his first eight shots from the field and first seven free throws. Gutierrez didn't miss his first shot until there were just 3:30 left in the second half.

By the time Gutierrez fouled out at the end of regulation, he had gone 8-of-9 from the field, 2-of-2 from three and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, while chipping in one rebound, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

"He's involved in a lot of plays," Montgomery said. "There was the charge at the end where he scores the ball and then they take it away. And, he has the one at the other end where he just gets run over -- there's two fouls on charge-block calls. It was tough losing him."

With Gutierrez and Sanders-Frison in foul trouble for most of the second half, Cal needed another scoring option, and that came in the person of true freshman Allen Crabbe. After scoring just six points in the first half (making two of his four three attempts), Crabbe exploded in the second, scoring 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting.

"He knew we weren't scoring in very many spots," Montgomery said. "He knew he had to penetrate and make plays off the dribble, and I thought that he did that. They were forcing him off the line. They were not going to let him get very many open shots. He ended up driving the ball and getting to the basket. We had to do that. We shot 41 foul shots -- or 42. We had to drive the ball. They're a very physical team. They chuck you and hold you and everything else. If you're not aggressive, you're not going to get anywhere."

Crabbe was visibly spent after the game, having scored 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting, 3-of-6 from three and 6-of-7 from the line in a career-high 54 minutes.

"I would probably say I'm more drained emotionally," said a muted Crabbe. "We had a lot of opportunities to win, but Arizona just made their plays tonight. You've got to give them credit for making the plays at the end. This was a tough one."

As the game wore on, Crabbe had to push through not only exhaustion, but pain as well. With 1:33 left in the second overtime and the Bears up by two, Crabbe missed a jumper from the right side of the key and couldn't make a play for the board, which went to Hill. Hill fed Parrom for a three on the break while Crabbe winced as he slowly tried to get back on defense to no avail.

"I have tendonitis in my left knee, and I guess it just flared up towards the end," Crabbe said. "It was getting really stiff on me. It was painful, but I tried to push through it and do whatever I could to help my team."

At that point, nearly all of the players were dragging, on both sides. But Arizona's Jones kept pushing harder and harder. After playing 12 and 13 minutes in the first and second halves, respectively, Jones played in 14 of the 15 overtime minutes, scoring 12 of his career- and team-high 27 points after regulation.

"I think MoMo and Kevin Parrom, especially once Derrick fouled out, I thought both guys really made some great plays," said Miller. "A lot of individual players on our team stepped up and answered the bell. Sometimes it's not about the play you draw up or strategy; it's about the guys out there really competing. We were resilient and it was a great team effort. We were very fortunate, and I cannot say enough good things about Cal. Again, they have proved they are a hard team to guard, really hard here, especially at home."

The Wildcats clearly had the advantage when it came to depth, scoring 52 of their 107 points off the bench, while the Bears got just three, despite heavy minutes for both Richard Solomon and Bak Bak once Sanders-Frison (eight points, three boards, two assists) fouled out. In fact, the combo of Kamp, Crabbe and Gutierrez accounted for 85 of Cal's 105 points.

"We ended up having to go to Allen and Harper late, and they produced, but Allen was exhausted. He should've been. They were out there a long time," Montgomery said. "We just don't have that depth right now, where we've got that kind of experience. Bak and Solomon played 20 minutes apiece, probably the most they've played all season."

In fact, seven of the eight Bears who saw action were on the floor for at least 19 minutes. Four players logged at least 40 minutes of game time.

"Nothing's changed. I mean, that's the way it's been all the way along. We've had to pick and choose where we can use our bench and what we can try to do with them," Montgomery said. "Unfortunately, tonight, we didn't have a lot of choice, just in terms of experience and guys that we've been used to going to: Jorge and Markhuri. Those are two guys that we need in the game, and sometimes, we're our own worst enemy as far as the mistakes that we make in terms of fouls.

"We didn't do a very good job at point of attack, and that really hurt us. They drove on us a lot, and we weren't able to defend. There were all kinds of charge-block calls out there. I'd be interested to see how many of them or what the deal was, there. We just know what we've got, and we've got to put it away when we have our chance."

The Bears were, however, bolstered by the season's second-largest home crowd, as the 9,723 in attendance at times sounded as if they were twice as many in number.

"It definitely was fun, with the crowd all into it, I've never played in front of that many people in my life, and just the energy and the vibe of the whole gym, it was just a fun experience. I have to say I enjoyed myself tonight," said Crabbe.

Montgomery, who's team has gone largely underestimated and under-supported all year, hoped that the triple-OT thriller would garner some much-needed fan attention.

"It was good. A lot of them were Arizona people, but people got excited," he said. "If you can't get excited about that game, then I don't know what we've got to do."
Crabbe, for his part, felt that Cal earned some serious credibility with the effort, even if it was a loss.

"They're No. 1 in the Pac-10, and I've got to give it to our team: they came out and competed for however-many minutes we played tonight," Crabbe said. "We just came up short."

Kamp offered a somewhat similar sentiment, but with age comes wisdom: this team still has a ways to go, but the building blocks are most certainly there.

"I saw my teammates, and every time I see how hard they play, it really gives me some encouragement," Kamp said. "But, we still have a lot of things that we have to learn, myself included. Mentally, there's a lot that we need to be able to do at the end of games, just to come up with a win."

Notebook
• This was the Bears' second overtime game of the year. Cal downed Washington State 88-81 on Jan. 13. It was also the Bears' first multiple-OT game since winning 88-85 in triple overtime at Washington on Jan. 10, 2009.

• This was Cal's third triple-overtime game ever. Other than Saturday and the 2009 game against the Huskies, the only other triple-OT contest was a 93-86 loss at Stanford in 1972.

• The Bears' 105 points were the most in a game since downing Jackson State by the count of 117-74 on Dec. 5, 2007.

• Arizona, which was ranked No. 21 this week in the AP poll, is the fifth ranked opponent that Cal has faced this season, joining then-No. 20 Temple, then-No. 14 San Diego State, then-No. 3 Kansas and then-No. 17 Washington. The Bears are 1-4 against ranked opponents this year.

• Seven of Cal's 11 conference games this year have been decided by five points or less or in overtime.

• Kamp's 33 points mark the 12th straight game he's reached double figures in scoring.

• Gutierrez has now scored in double figures in each of the past four games.

• Gutierrez, Crabbe and Kamp became the first Bears trio to score at least 20 points in a game this year.

• Smith's 11 assists were a career-best, topping his nine-assist game against the Cougars on Jan. 13.

• Cal's first substitution in the second half came with 4:44 left in the game, when Sanders-Frison went to the bench with four fouls. Solomon was the first Bears player off the bench to score in the game, making a free throw with 4:37 left in the second OT. Along with a tip-in in the second extra period, Solomon had three points -- the entirety of Cal's bench production.

Solomon played just eight minutes in the first half and ended up spending 21 minutes on the floor when all was said and done, contributing two blocks and three boards. Bak played three first-half minutes and ended the night with 19 under his belt, going 0-for-1 from the field and pulling down three boards.

• Williams' 12 points tied his season-low. He entered the game averaging 19.9 points per game and had 31 against the Bears the first game this year in Tucson.

• Cal was 5-for-5 from the floor at the first media timeout during Thursday's game against Arizona State, and tonight, the Bears were 5-of-7 at the first media timeout.

• Kamp's career-high 55 minutes was well-short of the record for most minutes played in a game. The current record holder is Gene Ransom, who played 63 and a half minutes against the Ducks back in 1977.


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