Sun Devils complete Bay Area Pac-12 sweep, rout Bears

(category Cal Bears)

Sports Radio Service
Saturday, March 1, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. – California’s road swing through the Grand Canyon State ended the way it started, with a lopsided defeat.

An early second-half collapse by the Bears led to Arizona State thumping Cal 78-60 Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena, making a tight Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball race even tighter.

The Sun Devils (21-8 overall, 10-6 Pac-12) moved into third place in the conference standings, trailing second-place UCLA by one-half game and league-leading Arizona by 3½ going into the final weekend of the regular season.

ASU won the earlier meeting between the two schools 89-78 in overtime on Jan. 29 at Berkeley. The Bears were looking to bounce back after an 87-59 loss at No. 3-ranked Arizona on Wednesday.

Cal (18-11, 9-7) is tied for fifth place in the Pac-12 with Colorado, both trailing Stanford by one-half game. The Cardinal visit Arizona Sunday.

“(ASU) is a good team and they’re playing well right now,” Bears guard Justin Cobbs said. “It’s not discouraging. It hurts to lose, and nobody likes to lose, but we’re not done. We’re still in the hunt for a top four spot (in the Pac-12), so we just got to get it done at home.”

Despite the loss, Bears Coach Mike Montgomery said that finishing in the Pac-12’s top four is still a possibility.

“Sure, we can,” Montgomery said. “These guys (ASU) have to go to the Oregon’s, Stanford plays the same schedule that we have, and Colorado and Utah have to come to us and Stanford. It’s in our hands, just like the others. It’s a matter of who gets the job done.”

Arizona State and Cal battled back and forth throughout the first half, with the score tied five times and four lead changes. The Bears led by as many as six (12-6 with 13:25 left in the half) and held it’s last lead at 22-20 on a David Kravish jump shot at 3:38.

ASU tied the game at 24-24 on a jumper by Eric Jacobsen, which sparked a 5-0 run to end the half with a 29-24 lead that the Sun Devils would never relinquish.

What did Cal in was a 15-6 Sun Devils run in the first five minutes of the second half. After the Bears cut the ASU lead to 29-26 on a pair of free throws by Justin Cobbs, Jermaine Marshall answered by draining one of his six 3-pointers.

The run included six points by center Jordan Bachynski, four points by Jonathan Gilling and a layup by Jahii Carson. A free throw by McKissic with 5:58 to play gave Arizona State its biggest lead at 68-48.

“They made shots,” Cobbs said of the second-half collapse. “We didn’t play defense and they made shots.”

In particular, it was Marshall who had the hot hand. Marshall finished with a game-high 22 points, hitting 7 of 11 from the floor – 6 of 8 from 3-point range – and, along with McKissic, Gilling and Bo Barnes, finished with four assists each.

“We lost vision on open shooters,” Montgomery said. “We played really good defense in the first half and did exactly what we were trying to do. Right toward the end of the first half, we had three breakdowns and they hit three 3’s. We would have been up, even as poorly as we were shooting the ball. That gave them some momentum.

“That carried over into the second half and we lost vision of open shooters time and time again,” Montgomery continued. “To (ASU’s) credit, they knocked down shots – there was a time they were shooting 83 percent from the floor. (ASU) got 33 points on 19 possessions, which is incredible production.”

Gilling added 15 points off the ASU bench, hitting 6-of-9 field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers. McKissic finished with 10 points; he and Barnes each grabbed six rebounds.

Bachynski, the nation’s leading shot blocker (4.25 bpg), added four more rejections to his season total of 123. He also pulled down seven boards as the Devils outrebounded Cal 34-29.

“Arizona State really hurt us with that small lineup,” Montgomery said. “Marshall and Gilling did a great job of shooting the ball when they were open. To Arizona State’s credit, they moved the ball very well. When they’re open, they find the open man.

“It’s discouraging, because we’re not playing very well right now.”

“We’re letting our play at one end of the court affect the other end of the court,” Bears forward Richard Solomon said. “We’ve just got to play through it and play harder.”

Cobbs led Cal with 15 points (6-of-9 shooting), but was held to six points in the second half. Jordan Mathews added 14 points and Kravish scored 12. Solomon and Kravish each pulled down eight rebounds.

When postgame talk switched from the Pac-12 postseason tournament to reaching The Big Dance, Montgomery and Cobbs each refused to speculate that far ahead.

“We’re just trying to win a game right now,” Montgomery said.

Cobbs added, “That’s the last thing we’re worrying about right now. We just have to focus on the next one.”

That would be on Wednesday night, when the Bears host Utah at Haas Pavilion. Game time is 8 p.m.

(TAGS: Cal,Bears,Arizona State,Pac-12,men’s basketball,Daniel Dullum)

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