After zoning out most of the past two seasons against Oregon State, Cal's basketball team was very much in the zone Thursday night while posting an 85-57 victory at Haas Pavilion.
The Golden Bears stole a page from the Beavers, baffling them with a zone defense that suddenly has become their defensive staple. At the same time, Cal found holes in the OSU zone, attacking from inside rather than from beyond the 3-point arc.
With a victory to open a four-game homestand, the Bears (11-9, 4-4 Pac-10) moved into a tie for fourth place with USC and Washington State, two teams they have beaten this season.
"We're pretty confident right now. We all have the mind-set to do everything it takes to win," said junior guard Jorge Gutierrez, who had 16 points and a career-high 11 assists.
"We're thinking of winning all of them," he said of the stretch at Haas. "We have Oregon on Saturday. That's what we're thinking right now."
The Beavers (8-11, 3-5) lost for the fifth time in six games.
No Pac-10 team has given Cal more trouble in recent years than the Beavers, who had won four of the previous five meetings. The teams split two last season even while Cal won its first Pac-10 title in 50 years because the Bears tried to beat the zone from the perimeter.
OSU was a nightmare for 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year Jerome Randle, who shot 0 for 11 from 3-point range in the two games.
Cal attacked the softer interior of the Beavers
"Jorge and Brandon (Smith) and Allen (Crabbe) just did a great job of moving the ball and penetrating the seams and finding the bigs," said junior forward Harper Kamp, who benefited with 18 points.
"I don't think their 1-3-1 zone is what it's been in the past," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "They were forced to go to man, and we got some mileage against (that)."
At the other end, Cal's zone alignment prompted impatience from the Beavers, who shot 3 for 18 from the 3-point line and turned the ball over 17 times. OSU shot 32 percent overall.
The league's poorest 3-point shooting team didn't have nearly the success from the outside that UCLA and USC did last weekend when they combined for 22 3-point baskets.
"We were very comfortable in (the zone)," Gutierrez said. "We didn't get as tired as before. That's a plus."
Senior Markhuri Sanders-Frison had 15 points and nine rebounds and freshman Crabbe contributed 12 points and seven rebounds. The Bears also got a lift off their bench from Richard Solomon (seven points, five rebounds) and Bak Bak (six points, five rebounds).
During garbage time, freshman guard Emerson Murray made his first 3-pointer of the season after nine misses.
Former San Leandro High star Jared Cunningham scored 15 for the Beavers, 11 of them on free throws. The Pac-10 steals leader, he had just one.
Cal took advantage of OSU's sloppiness to extend a 36-26 halftime lead. The Beavers turned the ball over five times on their first seven possessions of the half, and the Bears got their transition game going to forge leads of 51-35 and 55-37.
The margin reached 60-38 when Gutierrez converted on a scoop-shot layup and free throw with 10:18 left. It was 73-44 after a fastbreak layup by Crabbe with 5:45 left.
Oregon (10-10, 3-5 Pac-10) at Cal (11-9, 4-4), 3 p.m., CSNCA