And they couldn't be feeling much better about themselves.
Last week started badly for Cal with the word on Jan. 5 that freshman Gary Franklin, who had started the first 11 games, quit the team because he wants to play point guard full time.
A day later, Cal just missed an upset at McKale Center, leading by nine points in the second half before falling 73-71 at Arizona.
The Bears found the win column at Arizona State, blowing all of a 15-point first-half lead, then holding on for a 65-61 victory.
"To come in and really have a legit chance (at Arizona) and the win (at Arizona State), I think it's fabulous," coach Mike Montgomery said. "It's a road win, baby."
No player provided a more encouraging performance in the desert than freshman wing Allen Crabbe, who matched his career-high with 17 points in both games. He missed a key late free throw in the Arizona defeat, then converted one he had to make in the final seconds against Arizona State.
"He's definitely stepping up and coming into his own," senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison said. "We're not surprised at all. It was just him getting more comfortable with the college game, and he's doing his thing now. I'm proud of him."
Crabbe was reluctant to shoot early in the season, not an affliction the trigger-happy Franklin suffered. But with Franklin gone, the Bears need Crabbe to be more assertive, and he responded with a career-high 14 field-goal attempts at Arizona State.
He was 7-for-15 from the 3-point arc in the two road games.
"He was state player of the year in California -- it's not like he's a dog," Montgomery said. "He's just getting more confident."
NOTES & QUOTES
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Total points scored by Cal's bench players in the 65-61 win at Arizona State.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Ladies and gentlemen, we're missing a Gary Franklin." -- A Southwest Airlines flight attendant's announcement over the intercom before Cal's flight home from Phoenix, eliciting an eruption of laughter from the Bears' players. Franklin quit the team four days earlier.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
vs. Washington State, Jan. 13
KEY MATCHUPS: Cal has not lost to Washington State in two seasons under Mike Montgomery, but this will be a tougher matchup. The Bears were the veteran team the past two years, and the Cougars were young. Now the tables are turned, and Cal must find a way to slow Pac-10 scoring leader Klay Thompson, who has diversified his game and even become a good passer. The Bears' lone advantage may be inside, where Washington State is not particularly big or deep.
vs. Washington, Jan. 16
KEY MATCHUPS: Even Cal's Pac-10 championship team of a year ago lost two of three to the Huskies, including the conference tournament final. This will be a very challenging assignment for Cal, which cannot match Washington's athleticism, speed or depth. Washington isn't quite the same team on the road, but it already got a leg up on the conference by sweeping a set in Los Angeles. Cal must start with neutralizing some of Washington's perimeter game.
FUTURES MARKET: Expect the Bears to continue trying to develop more depth. The loss of freshman G Gary Franklin, who quit the team the day before the Arizona game, leaves the Cal roster thin. Mike Montgomery said he would give reserves Richard Solomon, Bak Bak, Nigel Carter and Emerson Murray more opportunity to carve niches for themselves. Solomon scored 11 points on the Arizona trip, but the other three combined for just two points.