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February 3, 2012

Bears fall for first time at home



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BOX SCORE

BERKELEY -- Fans gold-rushed Haas Pavilion on Thursday night to watch their California Golden Bears record their 18th-straight victory on their home court, but instead, they were witness to controversy, missed opportunities, and sloppy play as Cal (17-6, 7-3 Pac-12) lost 78-74 to visiting Arizona (15-8, 6-4 Pac-12).

It was 'Gold Out' night and fans were treated to rectangular foam blocks that were nearly two-feet long and resembled gigantic French fries. The marketing ploy seemed to help the Bears on nearly every Wildcats free throw. Cal fans waved their new toys mercilessly while Arizona connected on just 51.7% (15-29) of their charity attempts.

An energetic crowd and a fast start by the Bears wasn't enough to change the outcome of the game.

While the box score will show that Cal had trouble in the three-point game on offense and defense -- the Wildcats connected on seven of 11 three's while the Bears shot just one for eight on the night -- many in attendance will no doubt hold the officiating crew accountable for the outcome of the game.

Midway through the first period, a rash of fouls plagued Cal, and turned the tide of the contest. After getting on top 22-9 at the 10:43 mark of the first half, the Bears committed four consecutive fouls -- two on Jorge Gutierrez to force the senior starter out of the game.

"They went 14-of-17 from the 12-minute media mark down," Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said after the game. "They were executing extremely well. I think the physical play threw us, got us off our game and we were concerned.

Along with the fouls, Cal also turned the ball over twice, helping Arizona on a 6-0 run. The run extended to 13-2, putting the Wildcats within two points, 24-22 with 6:41 remaining in the first half.

Over the last 10:41 of the first half, Arizona outscored the Bears 36-12 to take a 45-34 halftime lead. In that span, Cal recorded seven of its 11 fouls of the half and turned the ball over seven times.

During the Wildcats' whirlwind turnaround, officials took center stage, drawing the ire of Bear Backers in attendance. Fans may have had a case for their boisterous display of their lack of appreciation for the men wearing striped jerseys. By the end of the half, both teams had accumulated 22 personal fouls -- a number of them could be considered of the ticky-tack variety.

More importantly, larger infractions were missed in the closing minutes of the half.

On one under-the-basket shot attempt by junior big man Robert Thurman, it appeared he was being held down. The shot didn't go in, and a foul wasn't called. Later in the period, Thurman was bumped out of bounds and couldn't get back on the court to help on defense, leaving Arizona with a rare five-on-four opportunity which resulted in two points.

Cal was even called for a lane violation on its own free throw.

It wasn't just fouls that had the Bears off their game, but heady plays by the Wildcats that got the Bears flustered. Arizona's Kyle Fogg, (24 pts, 3 rbd, 4 ast, 1 blk, 2 stl), drove from right to the paint from right to left, drawing Thurman towards him with both arms high above his head.

As Thurman appeared to have the rim protected, Fogg bounced a pass through the junior's five hole to teammate Jesse Perry (18 pts, 4 rbd, 2 ast). The sleight-of-hand was so quick that Perry got the easy layup before Thurman realized what had just happened.

"Concerned," as Montgomery put it in the post-game press conference, is putting it lightly. So frustrated was Montgomery by the play of his players and the officiating, he came off the bench and shoved Justin Cobbs (9 pts, 4 rbd, 4 ast, 1 stl), away from the sideline during play, and scolded the sophomore point guard for what seemed to be lackadaisical play.

Montgomery, his staff, and his team weren't alone in their, "concern," -- their fans were plenty upset as well by the end of the half.

The home crowd may have been the most demonstrative in school history for a basketball game. Front court fans were standing to give officials a piece of their mind while the officials ran up and down the court following the action. The crowd booed and chanted disparaging remarks while filling the gym with as much noise as it could handle.

At the end of the half, officials needed security and police personnel to walk them off the court as home patrons were held at bay while attempting to voice their frustration with the judgment calls that had been made during the period. A thunderous chorus of boos and waving arms at the referees as they walked off the court bordered on the edge of becoming an 'Occupy Haas' riot.

Fans didn't get close enough to the crew to cause a foul with legal implications.

With the fuse was already lit, the gym exploded just prior to the officials leaving the court when both Montgomery and assistant coach, Jay John, were nearly thrown out of the game.

Just prior to leaving the floor for the halftime break, Montgomery attempted to make his case with head official Michael Greenstein. It didn't go well.

While making gestures of frustration and pleading his case, the fourth-year Cal skipper received a gesture of warning from the head referee. Greenstein pointed at the Bears' coach and the path to the locker room several times as if he was telling Montgomery to go into the locker room or get thrown out.

Montgomery, like a son backing down to his father, finally conceded defeat and began to back off. That's when John, still next to his seat on the bench, began getting out of control. Like his boss, he too received the scolding finger from Greenstein -- prompting Montgomery to restrain his assistant.

An argument between the two Cal coaches ensued, and Montgomery had to force John into the locker room with his arms solidly around his assistant.

Crowd pressure and the vehement coaches appeared to have an effect on the fouls called. Four of the first six fouls called after the break were on the visiting Wildcats and the Bears were also on the receiving end of a couple of generous non-calls.

It took only five minutes into the second half for the Bears to make it a game. Cal went on a 9-0 run on the strength of senior power forward Harper Kamp's six straight points to pull to within five, 56-51, at the 14:46 mark. Kamp, (22 pts, 9 rbd), led all Cal players in both scoring and rebounds on the night.

Cal wouldn't get any closer until 7:01 was left on the clock. Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, (18 pts, 6 rbd, 3 ast, 2 stl), followed an Allen Crabbe, (15 pts, 6 rbd, 5 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl), three with the Bears' next four points -- finally bringing the home team to within two points, 66-64, and 6:18 left to win the game.

The Bears, who played with passion for most of the second half, got a little more incentive with 4:46 remaining. A loose ball was heading towards the Wildcats' bench with Gutierrez in hot pursuit. Just as Gutierrez reached the sideline, he jumped, whacked the ball towards the direction of his goal, and landed on Arizona assistant coach Joe Pasternack -- a former member of Ben Braun's Berkeley staff.

The ball ended up going out of bounds, but Gutierrez didn't get back in bounds. As the whistle was blown indicating a dead ball, Gutierrez was seen going at it with Pasternack, who then gave the senior swingman his opinion of the event. Gutierrez and Pasternack had to be separated before any fouls were called for either side.

That passion carried over to other players on the court. At the 3:41 mark, Cal forced the fifth tie of the game, and first since the 4:04 mark of the first half, when Cobbs ripped the ball away from Arizona's Josiah Turner at midcourt, and streaked the other way for a convincing dunk that tied the score at 72.

The score didn't change until a three-point make by Fogg with 1:23 left put Arizona ahead for good.



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