Exactly 50 Years After Their Last Conference Title, the Bears Finally Bring the Pac-10 Crown to Berkeley

Photo: <b>Senior forward Jamal Boykin</b> shoots over Arizona State guard Jerren Shipp during the Bears' title-clinching win on Saturday at Haas Pavilion.
Anne Marie Schuler/Staff
Senior forward Jamal Boykin shoots over Arizona State guard Jerren Shipp during the Bears' title-clinching win on Saturday at Haas Pavilion.

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Cal men's basketball beat writers Jimmy Tran and Jeff Goodman share their thoughts on the Bears' first conference title in 50 years.

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Arizona State 46
Cal 62

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Cal Clinches Share of Pac-10 Title
Images from Saturday's game against ASU.

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Seconds became eternity as the Cal students anxiously watched the clock tick down.

The Bears' fanbase endured 50 years of letdown and could not wait for the final two minutes to just be over with.

In fact, it had been so long that the crowd was initially confused as to how to celebrate when the buzzer finally sounded.

After an awkward couple minutes of standing still, the Cal fans began to jump up and down with the Cal men's basketball team as blue and gold confetti rained down in Haas Pavilion.

After a half-century, the Bears once again became conference champions.

Cal (20-9, 12-5), with its 62-46 win over Arizona State on Saturday afternoon, clinched at least a share for the regular-season Pac-10 title.

The Bears turned in a dominating second-half performance en route to their first conference crown since 1960. Afterwards, the players, adorning their newly printed Pac-10 champion shirts, each took a turn to climb the ladder and cut the net.

Coach Mike Montgomery, on his 63rd birthday, clipped the final strands and thrust his arms into the air as the soldout crowd of 11,877 roared in approval.

"It almost seemed unreal, the whole game almost seemed like a fantasy in a lot of ways," senior Jamal Boykin said.

The game marked the final appearance at home by Boykin and the four other seniors on Cal's roster. They were all honored for their contributions in a brief ceremony before the game. For Jerome Randle, who teared up during the pre-game presentation, the whirlwind of events was difficult to handle.

"It was hard. The emotion, then to go out and be mad and beat that team," Randle said. "I was able to control it a little bit. I had two turnovers, but it happens. I'm just glad to lead my team the best way that I can and get the win."

Randle scored just seven points on the day but received plenty of help from his teammates. After a slow start offensively in the first half, the Bears moved the ball more effectively and began breaking down the Sun Devils' matchup zone.

"We were stagnant in the first half, and it was a little to feel out their zone," senior Theo Robertson said. "In the second half, we did a better job of being aggressive ... keeping guys moving, and with that we were able to get their guys out of position."

A more team-oriented style of basketball translated to 17 assists on 25 field goals and only six turnovers.

"In a game like this when you're down and you have to win, it doesn't matter who scores," Boykin said. "Pass the ball, let's get the best shot."

Much of the aggression on offense can be attributed to Jorge Gutierrez. The sophomore guard consistently attacked the basket, found open teammates when the shot wasn't there, and sparked Cal's gritty defensive effort.

Coming into the game, ASU (20-9, 10-6) was leading the conference in three-point percentage and makes. However, the Sun Devils made just 3-of-22 from beyond the arc on Saturday and shot 27 percent from the field in the second half.

In the final 11:04 of the game, the Sun Devils scored just four points.

When the shots didn't fall from the perimeter, ASU tried to turn its center Eric Boateng-who was coming off a career-high 24-point performance against Stanford on Thursday. Boykin gave Boateng little room to operate, despite playing one-on-one, and limited the senior to two field goals.

"I think that what contributed a little bit to that is they started to miss some, and when they started to miss some, it gave us some reinforcement for working that hard and that's critical," Montgomery said. "I just think that really they had great focus."

Montgomery will now have to make sure the Bears keep that focus when they travel across the bay to the school where he won four regular season crowns next week.

If Patrick Christopher's words are any indication, Cal should be ready for Stanford.

"It's unfortunate, it being our last time playing at Haas, but the way we ended it was the most important thing" he said. "It's a warm feeling, so hopefully we can keep things going and make more history."


Contact Jimmy Tran at [email protected]

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