Cal’s effort in its 75-71 loss to Washington State was admirable and all, but the highlight of the Golden Bears’ performance came afterward when coach Mike Montogmery said the officiating has him ready to jump off a bridge.
That’s classic Montgomery stuff. It will no doubt bring a reprimand from the Pac-10, but who cares?
He got one technical foul, and nearly got another. “I just as soon they throw me out,” Montgomery said.
Whether it was the officiating or fatigue — which Montgomery also cited as an issue — Cal, playing without freshman Allen Crabbe, could not stay with Washington State down the stretch on Saturday afternoon in Pullman and lost its third straight game.
Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez, who had a big second half, had a chance to tie the score in the closing seconds, but his three-point shot with three seconds left and the Golden Bears trailing by three rattled in and out. A free throw by WSU’s Faisel Aden with 2.3 seconds left set the final margin at four.
The Bears, who would have moved within one game of first place if they had beaten Arizona last Saturday, now stand at 13-12 overall and 6-7 in the conference, five games out of first place in the loss column after the triple overtime loss to first-place Arizona and losses in both games in the state of Washington this week.
Crabbe had sustained a concussion in Thursday’s wout loss to Washington in Seattle, and he was held out of Saturday’s game. He probably will be back for next week’s home games against USC on Thursday and UCLA next Sunday, but the Bears could have used his offense on Saturday.
Jeff Powers, a 6-7 walk-on freshman who has played very little this season, started in Crabbe’s place and had an outstanding game in his first career start. Powers, who had 13 points in 11 minutes against Washington on Thursday, finished Saturday’s game with 14 points and hit 3 of 6 three-pointers. He hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 55 with 6:13 left after Cal had trailed by 11 less than seven minutes earlier. Powers then converted a reverse layup that gave the Bears a 60-57 lead with 4:58 left, but the Cougatrs dominated the next few minutes before the Bears’ late surge.
“I got to give kudos to Powers,” Montgomery said. “Not only did he hit some shots, but he played smart on defense. He was a little nervous before the game, but I just told him, ‘Hey, you’re in Pullman, no one’s going to know what happens, so just relax.’”
“But you could see how tired we were,” Montgomery said.
Besides Crabbe, the Bears were without Emerson Murray for the most part. He played limited minutes because of hip problem. Montgomery noted that Gutierrez and Harper Kamp were fatigured.
Montgomery plans to rest his players as much as he can at this point.
“Looks like now to get to the NCAA Tournament, we’ll have to win the Pac-10 tournament,” he said.
Gutierrez, who went scoreless in the first half, finished with 19 points, while Kamp had 17 points and nine rebounds.
Cal points guard Brandon Smith was 1-for-6 from the field, but he had seven assists and no turnovers.
It was Mike Montgomery’s first loss to Washington State as Cal’s coach. It was also Cal’s 10th game decided by four points or less or in overtime, and the Bears are 5-5 in those games.
Cal hit a season-high eight three-pointers.