"We really could have separated ourselves from everybody. Our backs are against the wall. We really have to win Saturday."
Coach Mike Montgomery was frustrated the Bears could not push a winning streak to four games for the first time this season.
"We bounce back. That's what we do," he said. "This has been a team that it's been hard to keep them at a certain level all the time. There's little things we could have done, and we just caved in to stuff."
OREGON STATE 80, CAL 64: It was the same old story for the Bears against Oregon State, whose rangy 1-3-1 zone defense and deliberate offense cause Cal fits.
The Bears shot 54 percent in the first half but still trailed 39-36. Oregon State then turned up the heat, holding Cal to 37.5 percent shooting in the second half, just 1-for-10 from the 3-point arc.
"We weren't able to solve anything they were doing to us. Really just beat us in every aspect of the game." senior Theo Robertson said. "Until you solve it, you can't really feel that confident against them."
"We didn't play well," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.
He cited three areas of emphasis going into the game: taking care of the ball, keeping Oregon State from getting second shots, and staying focused on defense against the Beavers' deliberate offense.
"We just were lulled to sleep, then they would drive and we would reach out and foul and they would shoot free throws," he said. "Twenty-four points off turnovers, (13) second shots and 36 fouls shots ... on the road? Not going to work."
--The Golden Bears got the victory they badly wanted and avoided the upset defeat they could not afford, so they remained alone in first place in the Pac-10 entering the week.
Cal avenged its worst loss of the conference season, shredding Washington's defense in a 93-81 victory. Then the Bears rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit, outscoring Washington State 15-0 over the final four minutes in an 86-70 win.
Senior guard Jerome Randle exorcised demons in the win over Washington, scoring 33 points a month after suffering his worst game of the season in Seattle. Randle shot 2-for-9 with eight turnovers in the Bears' 84-69 loss at Washington.
"I had this game on my schedule," Randle said. "I just wanted to come out and be aggressive for my teammates. I think my teammates feed off of that."
Fellow senior Jamal Boykin said he was inspired by Randle's play. "You can't knock this man down," he said.
Same could be said for sophomore guard Jorge Gutierrez, now mostly recovered from a knee injury that knocked him out of six games in January. Put in the starting lineup for the Washington game, the Bears' defensive specialist totaled 25 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals in the two wins.
"This is what he does every day -- in practice or in the game," Randle said of Gutierrez's ferocity and energy. "He changes the game every time he's on the floor."
"He's a tough sucker, boy," added coach Mike Montgomery. "Once he locks into you, it's kind of like a personal war for him. Somebody says something to him, and he don't forget it. ... He gets after it."
--Cal outrebounded Washington 24-7 over the opening 17 minutes of their game, and finished with a 37-30 edge on the boards against the Pac-10's top rebounding club.
--Even with Jerome Randle totaling 57 points in two games, the Bears had four players score in double figures against Washington and five against Washington State.
ON THE SPOT: No one on Cal's roster responds to a bad game quite the way Jerome Randle does. The Bears' senior point guard and leading scorer was embarrassed after a five-point performance in a loss at Washington last month, and he came back to score 33 points against the Huskies in a Cal victory last week. The turnaround time on his recovery needs to be much quicker this time, after being held to six points in the loss at Oregon State. "I definitely don't feel like they were in my head. I knew what I was up against before I got here," Randle said. "I was just trying to get everybody involved and lead the guys. Maybe I should have been a little more aggressive." He'll get his chance Saturday afternoon at Oregon.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're pretty pumped up. We haven't had a (road) sweep yet, so I'm calling sweep." -- Cal senior Patrick Christopher, predicting two victories this week in Oregon.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: As far as an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament is concerned, the Bears RPI separates them from the Pac-10 pack, thanks to robust strength-of-schedule rating that was the result of nonconference losses to Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico. Road losses at Arizona and USC knocked them into a four-way tie for first place, but the Bears responded with a 72-58 win at UCLA, then a home sweep of the Washington schools, giving them sole possession of first place entering the final three weeks of the regular season.
Cal 72, UCLA 58
Cal 93, Washington 81
Cal 86, Washington State 70
Oregon State 80, Cal 64
at Oregon, Saturday, Feb. 20
vs. Arizona, Thursday, Feb. 25
vs. Arizona State, Saturday, Feb. 27
at Stanford, Saturday, March 6
IN FOCUS: The Bears will make their final trip to venerable McArthur Court on Saturday. Beloved and intimidating, "The Pit" will be closed after this season as the Ducks move into the new Matthew Knight Arena. But the Bears will have no time for nostalgia as they try to dispatch the erratic and potentially dangerous Ducks. Barring a meeting in the Pac-10 tourney, it's the final career matchup of Cal's 5-foot-9 Jerome Randle and Oregon's 5-7 Tajuan Porter.
--Senior PG Jerome Randle shot just 2-for-9 (including 0-for-5 from the 3-point arc) and scored six points Thursday, one off his season low. The reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week is 7-for-29 from the field and 1-for-16 from the 3-point arc in his past three games against Oregon State.
--Senior F Theo Robertson scored 13 first-half points against the Beavers, then managed just two more.
--Senior G Patrick Christopher gave Cal a 3-0 lead by hitting a 3-pointer just 16 seconds into the game. It was the only lead the Bears enjoyed the entire night, and they were the only points Christopher scored until the second half, when he added 10 more.