Cal displays championship resolve

Commentary: California comes through with a truly impressive display against difficult circumstances, a result that could be the difference in winning the Pac-12 championship.

BERKELEY, Calif. – Oregon guard Devoe Joseph was simply unconscious, hitting from anywhere on the court Thursday night. It didn't matter if had to take a friendly bounce from off the glass, if it was thrown up off balance, if it came from 35 feet away from the basket. If Joseph took a shot, it was going to go in, somehow, someway.

And yet Cal won.

Cal got just 15 points from guards Jorge Gutierrez and Allen Crabbe, who was just 2 of 10 from the field after lighting up Oregon in the first meeting. Gutierrez picked up his fourth foul with 7:57 left in the game.

And yet Cal won.

Forwards Harper Kamp and David Kravish were also in foul trouble. Kravish picked up his third barely one minute into the second half, Kamp 38 seconds later.

And yet Cal won.

Cal was outscored 27-10 by Oregon's bench. Oregon shot 54.1 percent from the floor.

And yet, and yet, and yet Cal won.

Cal won because of its championship mettle and its defense, and in the process, took a major step forward towards its goal of a conference title.

"This is the kind of game that you have to have if you are going to have a chance to compete for a championship," head coach Mike Montgomery said. "You got to win a game where you take another teams best shot and still come out on the other end."

Everything was going against Cal, especially another crew of completely inept Pac-12 officials, and yet they came away with the critical result. Their defense, their teamwork and their intensity were the reasons why.

Oregon committed 22 turnovers, five in the final four minutes as Cal finally broke through to retake the lead. Gutierrez delivered like the senior leader he is, forcing a backcourt violation and creating several other stops that led to easy baskets, some of the 25 points that came off turnovers.

Justin Cobbs, Kamp, and Kravish stepped up with 44 of the team's 49 points in the second half, including the final 10 of the game.

It is that kind of dedication that has put Kamp and Gutierrez on the verge of their second conference championship, what they are passing on to their teammates.

Lesser teams give this opportunity away, buckling under the pressure of bad officiating or an unconventional offense or a hot shooting opponent.

"It was a gut check," Kamp said. "We came out and were playing a little nervous at times. We have got a target on our back right now because it is in our hands. The key for us, if we play with energy and play hard, that nervousness will go away.

"We have got a championship team."

Credit to Oregon as well, which played with similar intensity.

After their humbling of Washington last week and performance at Haas Pavilion, there is no doubting that Oregon is playing as well as any team in the conference, a point Montgomery emphasized several times.

"It was really a pretty gutty performance," he said. "I know they got to be sick sitting in there because they played really well."

They gave Cal fits with their athleticism, especially in the frontcourt. Oregon big men were able to beat the defense in transition time and again in the first half, creating easy shots. There were also several spectacular dunks and alley-oops when Cal switched to a zone defense.

Like Missouri, UNLV, and Arizona earlier this season, Oregon has the athleticism to give Cal fits.

But this time Cal came away with the win, one that could make all the difference between being remembered as champions and not being remembered at all. Top Stories