Steps to Postseason

Cal (15-13, 8-8 Pac-10) took a big first step, rallying from a 16-point first-half deficit to beat Oregon 81-71 at the new Matthew Knight Arena on Thursday night...

Bears Haven't Given Up on Postseason Dreams

The Golden Bears arrived in Eugene, Ore., on Feb. 24 with a mandate from Mike Montgomery: "Coach says we need to win two out of these next three games," senior Markhuri Sanders-Frison said two days earlier.

Cal (15-13, 8-8 Pac-10) took a big first step, rallying from a 16-point first-half deficit to beat Oregon 81-71 at the new Matthew Knight Arena.

The victory was the Bears' seventh straight over the Ducks, who had won six of their previous eight games. More important, it pushed Cal closer to its big-picture goal.

"We just want to keep on playing," Sanders-Frison said. "We want to aim for the stars and land on the clouds.

"We'd love to be in that March Madness," he said, referring to the NCAA Tournament. "If it's the NIT, as long as we're playing, I think this group of guys will be satisfied with that."

Although the NIT technically does not require a winning record, the reality is Cal won't get a sniff from the 32-team event without one. The Bears can clinch a winning season with a win Feb. 26 at Oregon State (10-16, 5-10).

The Bears crushed the Beavers 85-57 last month in Berkeley, but Oregon State beat Stanford 87-80 on Feb. 24 and will be fired up Feb. 26 for Senior Day at Gill Coliseum.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Jorge Gutierrez continues to be hottest player in the Pac-10. It just took him 20 minutes to find his rhythm Feb. 24 at Oregon.

Coming off a career-high 34-point performance against UCLA, Gutierrez entered the Oregon game as the highest-scoring player in the Pac-10 for the month of February, averaging 22.2 points per game.

He scored just seven points in the first half at Oregon, and the Bears trailed by as many as 16 points. But he went for 16 points after intermission and Cal outscored the Ducks 47-26 in the second half. Gutierrez, who scored in double figures for the ninth consecutive game, also had five assists.

His teammates have great regard for the junior guard from Mexico. "There's no one in the league like him at all," Markhuri Sanders-Frison said of Gutierrez. "No one close."


  • Cal trailed 40-24 entering the final four minutes of the first half at Oregon on Feb. 24, allowing the Ducks to do pretty much what they wanted at the offensive end. The margin was down to 11 points by halftime, and the Bears used a 15-4 run to move ahead 55-54 with 11 1/2 minutes left, their first lead of the second half. A 3-pointer by Brandon Smith with just under four minutes left gave Cal the lead for good, and the Bears closed out an 81-71 victory. The Bears shot 62.5 percent in the second half and converted 10 of 20 3-pointers on the night.

  • Freshman G Allen Crabbe, who had missed the two previous games after sustaining a concussion Feb. 10 at Washington, returned to action against UCLA on Feb. 19. He shot just 3-for-11 but had eight points, seven rebounds and two steals and helped stretch the UCLA defense.

  • The win over UCLA on Feb. 19 snapped Cal's four-game losing streak, its longest in three seasons under coach Mike Montgomery, and moved the Bears into a tie for sixth place entering its Feb. 24 game at Oregon.

  • The Bears shot 20-for-24 from the free-throw line on Feb. 17, outrebounded USC 39-33 and committed just seven turnovers. However, Cal opened the game by shooting 2-for-17 and could not stop USC freshman G Maurice Jones, who scored all 22 of his points in the second half, including five 3-pointers, in the Trojans' 78-75 win.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Points scored by junior G Jorge Gutierrez in the final 22.6 seconds of regulation and in overtime of the Bears' 76-72 win over UCLA on Feb. 19.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Wow, that's the best game I've ever seem Jorge play. He played phenomenal. He was so aggressive. He really took us on his back tonight." -- Cal sophomore PG Brandon Smith, after teammate Jorge Gutierrez scored a career-high 34 points against UCLA on Feb. 19.



  • at Oregon State, Feb. 26

    KEY MATCHUPS: The Bears lost by double digits in their two previous visits to Gill Coliseum, but they easily solved Oregon State's 1-3-1 zone defense in Berkeley last month. Harper Kamp scored 18 points and Cal logged its most decisive win of the conference season through Feb. 20, winning 85-57.

    FUTURES MARKET: Freshman SG Jeff Powers got his second consecutive start in the USC game on Feb. 17 because freshman Allen Crabbe still was not fully recovered from his concussion. After totaling 27 points in two games at Washington the previous weekend, Powers had just 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting against the Trojans, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range.


  • Freshman G Allen Crabbe rediscovered his shooting eye in his second game after missed 2 1/2 games following a concussion he suffered Feb. 10 at Washington. Crabbe made four of eight 3-pointers and scored 19 points Feb. 24 at Oregon.

  • Sophomore PG Brandon Smith scored a career-high 18 points, going 4-for-5 from the 3-point arc, and dished out six assists at Oregon on Feb. 24. It was his fifth double-digit scoring game of the season. His previous high total was 15 points vs. Hartford.

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