Cal rebounds with 65-61 win over Arizona State
TEMPE, Ariz. – Looking at Arizona State’s smallish lineup and its penchant for giving up offensive rebounds, California knew just where to attack.
Crashing the boards with every missed shot, the Golden Bears used aggressive rebounding to overcome poor shooting to win their first Pac-10 game, 65-61 over the Sun Devils on Saturday.
“The boards was important because we didn’t actually shoot it well,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “That meant we got more shots, we got more possessions.”
With a short turnaround from their previous game, the Bears (8-7, 1-2 Pac-10) struggled to get most of those shots to go down, hitting just 38 percent from the floor. Cal made up for it with 18 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-change points, played solid enough defense to hold back several Arizona State runs and avoid its first 0-3 conference start in 11 seasons.
Jorge Gutierrez had 21 points and hit two big free throws late, Mark Sanders-Frison added 13 points and 11 rebounds and rapidly improving freshman Allen Crabbe had 17 points while playing all 40 minutes for Cal.
“Getting road wins are really important in the Pac-10, so I was glad me and my team pulled it out in the end,” said Crabbe, 4 for 9 from 3-point range, including two big ones in the second half after Arizona State rallied. “Even though they made their run, we didn’t get down and get an attitude about it, so I’m glad we kept pushing.”
Arizona State (8-7, 1-3) struggled for the second straight game without senior point guard Jamelle McMillan, who is out with a strained groin.
The Sun Devils were disjointed at times offensively without the Pac-10 assists leader and struggled from the perimeter, shooting 6 for 21 from 3-point range after hitting 1 of 14 against Stanford two days before. Arizona State never led and had four chances to tie the game in the final minute, but missed all four shots from beyond the arc.
Ty Abbott had 18 points and Rihards Kuksiks added 10 for the Sun Devils.
“It’s just the same story every game,” Abbott said. “They were big, physical. They got the boards.”
Cal lost freshman guard Gary Franklin last week (transfer) and had won just two of its previous seven games. The Bears at least had some encouragement from their last game, coming within a desperation 3-pointer by Gutierrez of knocking off Arizona on Thursday night.
Cal didn’t have much time to prepare after the late start in Tucson followed by an early one in Tempe but didn’t seem to be bothered by the 40-or-so-hour turnaround.
Playing an aggressive zone, the Bears stayed out on Arizona State’s shooters and still managed too guard the rim, forcing the Sun Devils to miss nine of their first 12 shots. Cal didn’t shoot particularly well but attacked the offensive glass, scoring 14 points on 12 offensive rebounds in the first half.
The Bears went into a little funk to close the half and needed 3 1/2 minutes to get their first field goal in the second half, allowing the Sun Devils to claw their way back.
Cal just wouldn’t let them finish the job.
Crabbe hit a couple of 3s after Arizona State made one run, Gutierrez hit another to go with a couple of steals and the Bears hit three free throws in the closing seconds to seal it.
“We’re not picked to win the league, so every game is going to be tough like this,” Montgomery said. “We know that, and we’ve got to go out and get what we can. It’s a road win, baby, that’s all I know.”
Arizona State split its first two Pac-10 games without leading scorer Trent Lockett. The Sun Devils didn’t fare so well without McMillan in their last game against Stanford.
Arizona State seemed lost with him out, turning it over 12 times in the first half, unable to get decent looks throughout in a 55-41 loss that set a record for fewest points by the Sun Devils in their 36 seasons at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Sun Devils seemed to be well on their way to topping – bottoming? – that mark against Cal.
Alternately stagnant and impatient on offense, Arizona State missed one shot after another, falling into an early 15-point hole. The Sun Devils finally started to get something right late in the half to close within 31-23 and were much more crisp to open the second, pulling within one on Abbott’s long 3-pointer.
Abbott hit another long 3 to tie it at 40 with 12 minutes left, but the closest Arizona State could get after that was three in the closing minute on its way to another disappointing loss.
“We’re a totally different team than we were a year ago,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “I think we’ve got to get better at what we do, and I don’t think it’s a function of schematics.”