Boykin leads Cal to 78-70 win over Arizona State |

Boykin leads Cal to 78-70 win over Arizona State

Andrew Bagnato, The Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. – The California Golden Bears are still No. 1 in the Pac-10.

Jamal Boykin scored a career-high 25 points and had 10 rebounds, and Cal defeated Arizona State 78-70 on Thursday night to remain alone atop the jumbled Pac-10 standings.

Jerome Randle scored 25 points and Patrick Christopher added 21 for the Golden Bears (14-6, 6-2 Pac-10), who nearly blew a 16-point lead in the final 15 minutes.

“This was a huge game for us tonight,” Boykin said. “We’re trying to separate ourselves as the top team in the Pac-10. We’re trying to make the NCAA tournament, and this is all a part of that.”

Cal coach Mike Montgomery had said his team needed to “get better, get stronger, get tougher” after an unimpressive victory over Pac-10 bottom-feeder Oregon State last weekend.

The Golden Bears did that in the final minutes, but not before they weathered some nervous moments.

California was cruising with a 54-38 lead when Randle banged knees with an ASU defender and briefly left the game. The Sun Devils awoke and reeled off eight straight points before Randle returned and ended the run with a long 3-pointer from the top of the key.

But ASU wouldn’t go away.

Cal still led by 10 when Arizona State center Eric Boateng jammed home an offensive rebound with 8:25 to play. Boateng’s big play ignited a 13-2 run by ASU – and he capped it with a 3-point play that cut the lead to 67-66.

“I knew they were going to come back and make a run,” Randle said.

That’s when Jorge Gutierrez, a key reserve, hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. Christopher followed with a 15-footer as the shot clock wound down, and suddenly the Bears were back in control.

Boateng had 19 points and 13 rebounds and Ty Abbott added 20 points for Arizona State (14-7, 4-4), which has lost back-to-back home games.

“We’re just not consistent enough right now,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “We have to do a better job on the defensive end of the floor to give ourselves a chance.”

Cal, which starts four seniors, had little trouble solving Arizona State’s zone defense, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. The Sun Devils allow 55.8 points per game, fifth-lowest in the nation, but Cal put up 40 in the first half on its way to a seven-point lead at halftime.

“They’re a hard team to guard,” Sendek said. “They score consistently against most everybody. They’re a high-octane offensive team.”

Cal chewed up the Sun Devils with a play called “the ghost,” which calls for the Bears’ big men to float behind defenders, identify a gap in the zone and then run to the open spot.

Why is it called “the ghost?”

“It’s like Casper – you can’t see the man,” said Boykin, who made 10 of 13 shots from the floor and hit all five of his free throws.

Next up for the Golden Bears is another first-place duel. This time, the Bears will face surprising Arizona in Tucson on Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats stayed a game back on Thursday with a 76-68 victory over Stanford, their third straight win.

Unlike Wells Fargo Arena, which was half-full on Thursday, McKale Center will be rocking. Randle said the Golden Bears expect the Wildcats to give them their best shot.

“I know they’re going to come out fiery, ready to attack,” Randle said. “We just have to keep our composure.”

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