Cal Looks to Clinch Title on Senior Day

Cal (19-9, 11-5) celebrates Senior Day on Saturday against second-place Arizona State (20-8, 10-5) and can clinch no worse than a tie for the conference crown with a victory...

On the doorstep of California's first Pac-10 championship in 50 seasons, Jerome Randle didn't pretend he's not excited.

"It's a great feeling," he said after the Golden Bears whipped Arizona 95-71 on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion. "I feel it. I'm pretty sure everybody else feels what we can do in the next couple days."

Cal (19-9, 11-5) celebrates Senior Day on Saturday against second-place Arizona State (20-8, 10-5) and can clinch no worse than a tie for the conference crown with a victory.

"It's all right there in front of us," coach Mike Montgomery said.

The Bears haven't won a conference championship since 1960, when they were coached by Pete Newell and reached the national championship game for the second straight season.

Senior Theo Robertson said the Bears won't squander this opportunity.

"I think we'll be fired up," he said. "It's a big game. We're playing for something. Everything we've worked for is on the line. I know guys will be ready to play."

CAL 95, ARIZONA 71: Jerome Randle scored 17 points in a span of 4:24 early in the second half, and the Bears turned back Arizona's brief comeback bid.

Cal zoomed to a 41-17 lead with six minutes left in the first half before the Wildcats clawed back. Arizona got within 45-37 two minutes into the second half, but no closer thanks to Randle.

He hit three straight 3-pointers -- one of them from more than 25 feet -- and four altogether in the span that turned the game in the Bears' direction for good.

Coach Mike Montgomery stopped short of declaring Randle the Pac-10 Player of the Year.

"All I know," Montgomery said, "is we're playing for a championship on Saturday, and we probably wouldn't be doing that without him."

Aside from an eight-minute stretch spanning the two halves, Cal outscored Arizona 91-51.

"If we can play like that, we're pretty tough to beat, especially at home," said Theo Robertson, alluding to the Bears' 14-1 record at Haas Pavilion.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Is this the best team in the Pac-10? Can the Golden Bears, able to beat Oregon State just once in four tries over the past two seasons, finish at the top of the standings?

Cal returned home still in first place after beating last-place Oregon 64-49 on Feb. 20, but its cushion at the top is minimal after a disturbing 80-64 loss to the Beavers on Feb. 18.

"We didn't play very well," coach Mike Montgomery said.

"We were just lulled to sleep, then they would drive and we would reach out and foul and they would shoot free throws ... 24 points off turnovers, (13) second shots and 36 foul shots ... on the road? Not going to work."

No, it didn't.

The Bears allowed OSU to score more points than it had in any conference game in two seasons under coach Craig Robinson.

As the team's edge dwindled to a half-game over Arizona State, Montgomery said the core issue is no different than it's been after many of the Bears' defeats.

Cal is a pretty good team when it plays hard; not so good otherwise.

"Just that effort overall, in terms of our mental set, is not going to work for us," Montgomery said after the OSU loss. "We've been through this before. We just have to know (that) we've got to do whatever it takes to win."

Senior Theo Robertson acknowledged the rest of the conference isn't going to feel sorry for his team.

"There's a high premium on these games," he said, looking ahead, "and we don't want to let any of them slip away."

--Cal held Oregon without a field goal over the final 10 1/2 minutes, limited the Ducks to 1-for-11 shooting from the 3-point arc. Oregon was 2-for-29 from deep in two games against the Bears.

--The Golden Bears, who led the nation in 3-point accuracy a year ago, shot just 5-for-20 from the arc at Oregon State, including 1-for-10 in the second half.

ON THE SPOT: Cal fans have waited for this moment for a half-century, and it falls on the shoulders of the Bears' four senior starters to complete the job. Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin combined to score 76 points against Arizona, and they vowed to be ready again Saturday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I always think it's kind of funny when he runs to the scorer's table and you hear a roar from the crowd and everybody's trying to figure out, 'Who is this guy?' Then he came in and he performed ... he gave them a show." -- Cal senior Patrick Christopher, on 7-foot-2 center Max Zhang, who came off the bench in the second half to ignite the Bears against Oregon.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SEASON RECAP: The Bears can't seem to distance themselves from the rest of the Pac-10. They remain in first place, but a 16-point road loss to Oregon State reduced their pad. Their RPI computer ranking still separates them from the pack, thanks to robust strength-of-schedule rating that was the result of nonconference losses to Kansas, Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Jamal Boykin, F Theo Robertson, F Omondi Amoke, G Patrick Christopher, G Jerome Randle. Key Subs -- G Jorge Gutierrez, C Markhuri Sanders-Frison, C Max Zhang.

GAME REVIEW:

Cal 86, Washington State 70
Oregon State 80, Cal 64
Cal 64, Oregon 49
Cal 95, Arizona 71

GAME PREVIEW:

vs. Arizona State, Saturday, Feb. 27
at Stanford, Saturday, March 6
at Pac-10 tournament in Los Angeles, March 10-13

IN FOCUS: Cal will end an era Saturday against Arizona State in a sendoff of five seniors, four of them starters. It would be quite an occasion, with the Bears possibly trying to clinch their first conference title in 50 years and PG Jerome Randle, one of those seniors, closing in on Cal's career scoring record. Haas Pavilion should be pulsing with emotion and possibilities.

ROSTER REPORT:

--G Jerome Randle scored 24 points Thursday, and by dishing seven assists he became just the sixth player in Pac-10 history to accumulate 1,700 points and 500 assists in his career.

--F Jamal Boykin had 20 points and 10 rebounds against Arizona for his sixth double-double of the season.

--F Theo Robertson had 18 points and four assists Thursday.



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