Pac-12 basketball this week: Cal could steal title if UA, Ore. stumble

2013-02-27T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:33:10Z Pac-12 basketball this week: Cal could steal title if UA, Ore. stumblePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Raise your hand if you saw this coming: Cal, which didn't have a winning conference record until Feb. 2, has a chance to win the Pac-12.

Seriously.

After sweeping the Oregon schools on the road last week - games as impressive as they were ugly, offensively - the Golden Bears improved to 10-5 in league play, one game off the lead held by the Arizona Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks.

"I think we're playing better basketball for longer periods of time," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said.

"We've managed to win some games that looked like in serious doubt. I think the kids believe in one another....

"Peaking? I don't know. It seems guys have figured out what their roles are."

Their odds of making up that differential aren't bad, either.

Winners of five straight games - only two other league teams have won more than one in a row - the Golden Bears don't have to leave home again this season.

Cal's three remaining games are against Utah, Colorado and Stanford - combined conference record: 18-25 - at Haas Pavilion.

And if the Golden Bears end up tied for first with Arizona or Oregon, or both, they'll win the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, by virtue of not losing to either team this year.

Cal split two games with 10-4 UCLA and was swept by 9-6 Arizona State.

"We're in good shape, tiebreaker-wise," Montgomery quipped.

The Beaver State Swing was hardly aesthetically pleasing, but Cal beat the Ducks 48-46 on Justin Cobbs' buzzer-beating jumper. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday, the third time in a row the honor has been given to a Golden Bear.

Montgomery joked the defenders in the low-scoring game probably thought they played well.

"On offense, you're going to say, 'It was nothing special. We just didn't make shots,'" he said.

Behind 18 from Cobbs, Cal topped the Beavers 60-59 on Saturday.

"The thing about Cal is, they've won their close games," Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. "When you're in a league race and you're fighting for every 'W,' those close games have kinda gotta go your way."

It helps, too, to have the league's leading scorer, guard Allen Crabbe.

"Any time you've got two guys on your team that are as talented as Crabbe and Cobbs in the backcourt, you give yourself a chance," Boyle said.

Oregon State coach Craig Robinson thought that "if we could do a good job on Crabbe," they'd have a chance to win.

"Cobbs made up for everything Crabbe couldn't do," he said. "They really complement each other, too.

"When one's not going as good as normal, the other one can pick up the slack."

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