'Cats Come Through, Bears Buckle In Three-Overtime Thriller

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As the visibly exhausted Harper Kamp and Allen Crabbe walked away from their post-game interviews, coach Mike Montgomery patted both of them on the back and told them to go sign autographs. After 107 combined minutes, as well as 60 points and 17 rebounds, the two deserved be signing as winners, but the failure to convert critical chances kept them from a victory.

Saturday night was a game of five career-highs, 17 lead changes, three overtimes and most importantly, considerable chances. Even as a team defined by toughness and persistence, the Cal men's basketball team played its hardest game that it has since it started the season. But tonight was not about effort or valor. Saturday night's 107-105 triple-overtime loss to Arizona (20-4, 9-2 in the Pac-10) was about converting when it mattered.

"We had lots of chances to win," Montgomery said. "We had at least three chances to end that game and we didn't, and that's disappointing ... We got what we wanted on many occasions and failed to make the play. Arizona seemed to make the play when they needed to."

The Bears (13-10, 6-5) had several opportunities to clinch the game on Saturday, but a couple of missed free throws and botched layups would not survive the Wildcats' penchant for the big play.

Lamont "MoMo" Jones may have engraved his name into the psyche of Cal fans after delivering four different game-changing plays: A three-point play to tie the game at the end of regulation, a critical charge taken, a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining to tie the game in double overtime and the go-ahead layup with 1:03 remaining.

Jones finished with a career-high 27 points and clearly relished his superstar moment. Jawing with the Cal student section all game and confidently cupping his ears with his hands, the Bronx, NY native wanted to make the key play the entire night and succeeded on almost every attempt.

"That's just me," Jones said after the game "You're not a New York guard if you don't want the ball in your hand."

I've played like this my whole life. To other people it might be something new, but to me it's just another day in the life of MoMo Jones."

With only 16 seconds left and his team down by three points, Jones chose not to shoot a three-pointer and instead drive, draw a foul that would foul Cal center Markhuri Sanders-Frison, and convert the layup and free throw for a three-point play. After Jorge Gutierrez blocked Kyle Fogg's shot with the game tied at 83, the guard hustled down to position himself to take the most important charge of the game - that foul was also Gutierrez's fifth.

And on the game-tying 3-pointer, the Jones called for a high screen that allowed him room to shoot the crowd-silencing jumper.

The timely play of the sophomore point guard overshadowed the hardest effort from an already notoriously gritty and physical squad. Kamp, one of three starters to play over 50 minutes, was never substituted and scored a career-high 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Crabbe turned in another tremendous performance, scoring 27 points and converting several key baskets in the overtime periods.

Gutierrez scored 25 points on 8-9 shooting and turned in a tremendous defensive performance, but fouled out with 2:13 remaining in the first overtime. In 53 minutes, Brandon Smith dished out a career-high 11 assists and hit a clutch 3-pointer, but missed a critical free throw toward the end of regulation that Arizona would eventually punish.

The craziness of the affair overshadowed a series of tremendous performances and notable storylines. The Bears effectively limited Wildcats' star Derrick Williams, so much so that Montgomery thought his team was perhaps too focused on the forward. In the first half, limited reserve Jordin Mayes hit three three-pointers because of how aggressively the Bears' defense was collapsing on the front-runner for Pac-10 Player of the Year. The sophomore forward still scored 12 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.

"We probably over exaggerated how we wanted to handle (Williams)," Montgomery said. " Mayes got those three threes and we shouldn't have given that up. We wanted to keep the ball out of the high post with Williams. He got 18 rebounds, anyway, so obviously we didn't do a good job of blocking us.

The Wildcats also received a magnificent but still somehow understated night from sophomore reserve Kevin Parrom, who scored a career-high 25 points, pulled down six rebounds and contributed his fair share of critical plays down the stretch. Arizona coach Sean Miller pointed out Parrom and Jones as the guys that were "making plays for his team."

But for Harper Kamp and the rest of the Bears, it was just about missed chances.

"We had plenty of chances to win," Kamp said. "We just didn't capitalize."


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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