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March 2, 2013
Cal beats Colorado, 62-46
BERKELEY, Calif.-California coach Mike Montgomery won't let his thoughts turn to a possible NCAA tournament bid just yet.
As long as the Golden Bears keep winning and playing defense like they are, it should take care of itself.
The Pac-12's hottest team kept rolling despite an off-night from leading scorer Allen Crabbe and locked up a first-round bye for the conference tournament with a 62-46 win over Colorado on Saturday.
"We were fired up defensively," Montgomery said after his team held an opponent to exactly 46 points for the third time in four games. "We've been getting out on the break more (and) we're starting to get some layups and run-outs as a result of defending, and (the players) are liking that aspect of it."
The Bears (20-9, 12-5 Pac-12) won their seventh straight and pulled within one-half game of first-place Oregon in the standings. They'll still need some help to catch the 24th-ranked Ducks, whom they swept this season and hold a tiebreaking advantage over.
Getting into the NCAA tournament might be a little trickier, though California has to like its chances after reaching 20 wins for the fourth time in Montgomery's five seasons as coach.
Tyrone Wallace had 16 points and 11 rebounds while David Kravish had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Bears, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak in a decade.
Wallace, a freshman, had only six points in the first half and was shut out for the first seven minutes after halftime before finding his rhythm. He scored six straight points during one stretch and provided the signature moment of the game when he scored on a soaring one-handed dunk past Colorado's Andre Roberson in the second half.
Justin Cobbs added 16 points and five assists while helping California overcome the sluggish performance by Crabbe. Crabbe, the leading scorer in the Pac-12, was held to eight points while being saddled with foul trouble.
The Bears made it a non-issue by holding the Buffaloes to a season-low 23.1 percent shooting.
"It's been the same thing that we've been doing for the last however many games," Kravish said. "It's our energy coming out, playing harder and more together."
Xavier Johnson had 14 points and seven rebounds for Colorado (19-9, 9-7), which lost for only the third time in 11 games.
Roberson, the leading rebounder in Division I who was coming off a career-high 24 points in the Buffaloes' 65-63 win over Stanford on Wednesday, had nine points and five boards but helped shut down Crabbe.
Colorado, which had only one player in double figures, can still reach 20 wins for the third straight season under coach Tad Boyle but the Buffaloes will need some help to get a top-four seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
Cal, on the other hand, will get to rest during the first round thanks to its longest winning streak since 2002-03.
"That's goal one," Montgomery said. "Three weeks ago we were on the outside looking in. It gives us a chance now, depending on the circumstances, to win the league. It's just on us to see what we can do."
Crabbe has been the catalyst for the Bears most of the season but couldn't get going against the Buffaloes. He still made an impact with two assists and a key block when Cal pulled away to extend the longest current winning streak in the Pac-12.
Kravish picked up some of the slack while helping Cal end its three-game losing streak against Colorado. He scored eight points over the final 8 1/2 minutes.
California led 14-13 when Crabbe picked up his third foul and went to the bench with 5:11 remaining before the break. Roberson, who spent most of the game defending Crabbe, took advantage and scored inside to give Colorado the lead but the Bears responded with a 10-2 run.
Cobbs started it with two free throws then fed Wallace for a breakaway dunk. Kravish followed with a hook shot and Wallace added a 16-foot jumper to make it 22-15.
Roberson scored off an offensive rebound to halt the slide, and after Cobbs scored on a layup for Cal, Sabatino Chen made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left to pull the Buffaloes within 24-20 at halftime.
Colorado, which missed 17 of its first 21 shots, kept it close until Cal pulled away over the final 7 minutes.
Wallace helped spark the Bears' late run when he took a pass from Crabbe and beat Roberson down the court to score on a one-handed dunk that brought a raucous Haas Pavilion crowd to its feet and put Cal up 40-34.
Officials: Kevin Brill, Dick Cartmell, Ken Ditty