Pac-12 ATB: 01.12

Posted by Connor Pelton on January 13th, 2012

The Lede.  Through two and a half weeks of Pac-12 basketball, we still don’t know much about this league and how it’s going to shake out. But one thing was confirmed on Thursday night; California is going to have a say on who wins this conference. The Golden Bears got a solid, 57-50 victory over first-place Colorado at Haas Pavilion last night, vaulting Cal into a tie for first place with rival Stanford. In a year where finishing in the top four gives you a first round bye in the pivotal Pac-12 Tournament, the Bears now have big wins over UCLA, Oregon, and the Buffs, all of which can be used as tie breakers for seeding come March.

California forward Harper Kamp led the Bears with 14 points in their win Thursday night. (credit: Tony Zhou)

With the amount of parity and inconsistency in this league, it’s tough to take a single result and make it a big deal. After all, Cal could go out tomorrow and lose to Utah, and Colorado go and win four straight. But last night’s win for Cal felt different, at least to me. First of all, they showed they can win without a huge night from Allen Crabbe. Crabbe, the favorite (or co-favorite) to win Pac-12 Player of the Year, scored in single digits for only the fourth time of the season last night. Instead, players like Harper Kamp, Justin Cobbs were able to step up in the closing minutes to close out the win.

Second, this was the second straight win over a solid opponent for Cal, something that has been and will continue to be tough to come by as conference play continues. The victory moves Cal into a tie for first place in the Pac, and with games against Utah, Washington, and Washington State coming up, the Bears could find themselves on top for a while.

Meanwhile…  The game of the day, excitement wise, took place in Tucson, where Arizona met Oregon State. Both teams started out the game shooting ice cold, with the Beavers taking a 28-26 lead into halftime. But when the teams came out of the locker rooms, it was as if someone turned on the heat inside the McKale Center; Especially for the home team. Arizona hit seven of the nine three-pointers they took in the second half, but the feisty Beavers would not be outdone. Trailing by six with 5:20 left, each Beaver big (Joe Burton, Eric Moreland, and Devon Collier) put home a layup. From there it was the Ahmad Starks show, as the diminutive combo-guard would score ten straight points over the final 3:15. His final shot of regulation however, the one to send the Beavers to Tempe at 2-3 in the Pac-12, would go long, leaving the score tied at 72 after regulation. Overtime would start nicely for Oregon State, with Jared Cunningham immediately getting to the line and splitting his pair of free throws on the first possession of the extra period.

Little did they know that the free throw would be the final point for the Beavers, as a stifling Wildcat defense caused turnover after turnover. Frustrations would boil over for Oregon State after yet another steal would lead to yet another break away layup for Kyle Fogg. Cunningham fouled Fogg on the drive, leading to Fogg running his mouth either at or in the direction of Cunningham. Jared responded by shoving Kyle aside, which led to Solomon Hill bumping Jared. After that there was a lot of chest-puffing and attempts to separate the two teams, with Burton, Roberto Nelson, and Kyryl Natyazhko all appearing to get their two cents in with their opponents. When the dust settled, Cunningham and Fogg received technicals and eventual disqualifications for fouling out, while Burton and Natyazhko were ejected for leaving the bench. Amazingly, Hill and Nelson received no punishment for their actions. The Pac-12 announced early Friday there would be no additional actions taken against either team. Because Fogg fouled out, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson chose Jesse Perry to shoot Fogg’s foul shot. Perry missed, keeping the Wildcat lead at only six. But of course, Nelson would turn the ball over 15 seconds later, sealing an Arizona victory.

This weekend.  In the crazy world of Pac-12 basketball, every game is big. But the biggest games of the weekend will tip-off just a half-hour apart from each other on Saturday. At 12:30 PM PST, Oregon visits the McKale Center for a game televised by CBS. Then at 1:00 PM in Stanford, visiting Colorado will take on the first-place Cardinal. A Stanford win would be huge as bracketologists around the nation might start taking notice of them as a serious candidate for an at-large bid, while the same goes for Colorado. If you are looking for a matchup to watch, be sure to look for Chasson Randle against Spencer Dinwiddie. Both freshmen were expected to be stars later in their college careers, but already they have blossomed into solid minutes for their respective teams.

Connor Pelton (300 Posts)

I'm from Portland. College basketball and football is life.

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