Still At-Large: Bears Bumped by Huskies in Pac-10 Tournament Championship

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Cal 75
Washington 79

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Even though it won the regular-season conference title, the Cal men's basketball team can only get into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.

After pounding Oregon and coming back to defeat UCLA in the first two rounds of the Pac-10 Tournament, the Bears couldn't capture the championship in a 79-75 loss to Washington on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Huskies, who finished conference play in third place, punched an automatic ticket to the Big Dance with their seventh consecutive victory.

Cal, however, put its future in the hands of the selection committee and will find out where its postseason continues on Selection Sunday. Several experts have included the Bears (23-10) in their projected 65-team fields, most likely because of their tough preseason slate and their recently earned Pac-10 crown.

Of course, coach Mike Montgomery probably would have preferred guaranteed entry.

"I think we're a good team, and we'll take what we're given," he said. "Hopefully it's a matchup that's favorable to us."

Washington, which split the season series against Cal, didn't seem like a favorable matchup on Saturday.

Theo Robertson scored a team-high 25 points and Jamal Boykin amassed 20 points and 14 rebounds, but the Bears came up short in a game that featured more than 20 lead changes.

Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher struggled offensively, combining for 23 points on 6-of-22 shooting.

Randle made his only three-pointer of the game with 50.9 seconds remaining, cutting his team's deficit to 77-74. After a turnover by Washington forward Quincy Pondexter -- who finished with a team-high 18 points -- Randle was fouled by backup guard Elston Turner on a loose-ball chase with 4.4 seconds left.

During his trip to the free-throw line, Randle cut the Huskies' lead to 77-75 on his first attempt but was whistled for a lane violation on the ensuing shot -- an intentional miss.

Venoy Overton then sealed the win for Washington (24-9) by extending the lead to four on two clutch free throws.

"I thought we were in position," Montgomery said of Randle's second free throw. "I thought Jamal had it. It's rare that an official would call a violation."

The Bears fought their way out of a nine-point hole late in the second half, scoring 14 unanswered points thanks to a three-point play from Boykin, a three-pointer from Robertson and an acrobatic layup from Christopher with 6:07 remaining.

The Huskies went scoreless for more than five minutes during that stretch, yet they were the ones with their postseason bid secured when the final buzzer sounded.

"We only have one way to react, and that's to get back to work," Robertson said. "We can't dwell on this loss. As much as we wanted to come out here and have a better performance and win the championship, there's a new season that's going to take place."


Contact Jeff Goodman at [email protected]

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