Gutierrez finds his form against Stanford

Jorge Gutierrez ends slump with team-high 22 points, leading Bears past Cardinal, 77-71, in quarterfinals of Pac-12 Tournament.

LOS ANGELES – California had five long days to think about its loss to Stanford to end the regular season, but for guard Jorge Gutierrez, the wait was even more agonizing.

The senior had been in a slump the last two weeks, contributing to the Golden Bears' two-game losing streak that cost them the conference championship.

But Gutierrez bounced back in a major way in the quarterfinal round of the Pacific-12 Conference Tournament at Staples Center by going back to a simple motto.

"Just have fun."

Gutierrez did just that, scoring 19 of his team-high 22 points in the second half as Cal pulled away for a 77-71 win over the Cardinal.

"We kind of forgot this is about having fun," Gutierrez said. "For us, this is a new season."

Although he was named both Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, Gutierrez had struggled noticeably down the stretch, leading head coach Mike Montgomery to say that the native of Chihuahua, Mexico was "really fighting some demons."

Instead of playing with his usual reckless abandon, Gutierrez seemed to be thinking too much, trickling down to the rest of the team.

On Thursday evening, he and the rest of the Bears made it a point to just start playing again.

"As a team, we decided we needed to be aggressive," Gutierrez said. "We were a little tentative in the first half. In the second half, we wanted to win. That's all we wanted to do."

Trailing 30-23 at halftime, Gutierrez set the tempo with aggressive efforts to get to the basket on the first two possessions, leading to a short jumper and free throws. He tied the game on another ferocious drive and lay-up to cap the 10-3 run.

With the game tied at 60 with 6:03 to play, Cal (24-8) would use similar a 10-2 spurt to pull away for the victory.

Gutierrez made seven of his 13 shots from the field, including 3-of-4 three-pointers. He had shot just 26.9 percent (7 for 26) during his previous three games.

"That's the kind of play we expect from Jorge," said senior forward Harper Kamp, who scored 17 points and had seven rebounds. "It's not surprising. I think he's been able to do that all year.

"He's got a lot of fight in him."

Gutierrez also added seven assists and six rebounds, while frustrating Stanford (21-11) with his exceptional defense. Matched up on guard Jarrett Mann and willing to let him shoot, Gutierrez was able to roam, crucial in holding the Cardinal to 37.7 percent shooting.

"I feel a little more comfortable helping," he said. "We knew he was not that comfortable taking shots and that put me in a great position to help."

"Jorge's where he needs to be most of the time," head coach Mike Montgomery said. "That's what it takes for us to win."

Gutierrez actually had the option of defending Stanford guard Chasson Randle, who erupted for 17 points at Maples Pavilion. Instead, he deferred and let the assignment fall to sophomore Justin Cobbs.

While Randle scored 19 points, the freshman needed 16 shots to do so.

"I was like, ‘You know what, this is his chance. This is his chance to prove he can play some defense.' He took the challenge," said Gutierrez of Cobbs, who also had 15 points, four assists and six rebounds.

And while Cal was able to limit Randle's damage, they were far less successful in their efforts against senior forward Andrew Zimmerman, who scored 22 points.

After hitting two three-pointers last Sunday, he hit two more. Zimmerman had made 1-of-7 from behind the arc in the first 30 games this season.

"Yeah, it's crazy," Gutierrez said. "He's a good player. I'm just glad we got the win."

After venting its frustration against Stanford, Cal will have a chance to exact a measure of revenge on the other team responsible for its only losing streak this season, Colorado, in the semifinals at approximately 8:45 p.m. on Friday.

The Buffaloes upended Oregon, 63-62, when Andre Roberson scored with 10 seconds remaining to give the sixth-seed their second win in as many nights.


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