PULLMAN, Wash. -- Cal's most crucial possession, in the final 10 seconds, unfolded just how coach Mike Montgomery had hoped.
Washington State didn't try to foul, though it could have leading by three points. The Bears, Montgomery noted, were spaced perfectly on the play. And Jorge Gutierrez came off Harper Kamp's ball screen with an open 23-footer at the top of key.
It wasn't until the final possible moment Saturday, when Gutierrez's 3-pointer popped out after looking good, that the Bears' last-ditch attempt at extending the game fizzled.
"It felt like it was going in," Gutierrez said after Cal's 75-71 defeat to the Cougars at Beasley Coliseum.
The Bears (13-12, 6-7) lost their third Pac-10 game in a row, and this one came with the team hobbling after a 32-point loss to Washington on Thursday.
Freshman starter Allen Crabbe -- the team's No. 2 scorer in Pac-10 games -- didn't play after sustaining a minor concussion against UW, while guard Emerson Murray was feeling the effects of a bruised hip and Kamp was nursing a sore back.
"The first half we were running on empty," Montgomery said. "No question. We were pretty banged up."
The injuries and exhaustion clearly had an effect. Cal mustered just 23 points in the first 20 minutes -- but still trailed by two -- on 32-percent shooting with 10 turnovers.
No one struggled more than Gutierrez, who was 0 for 8 from the field in the first half and extended his drought
But then the junior from Mexico caught fire. In the final 11:39 -- shortly after Montgomery was called for his first technical foul of the season -- Gutierrez reeled off five straight shots from the field and assisted on back-to-back powerful dunks from Richard Solomon.
Cal had trailed by 11 when WSU guard Faisal Aden made both free throws after Montgomery's technical with 13:11 left. But they stormed back to grab a 60-57 lead with a falling-away 3 from Gutierrez and an acrobatic reverse layup from Jeff Powers.
Given the circumstances, Cal's resourcefulness was impressive. Yet WSU answered with a 13-3 outburst over the next three minutes to take another seemingly commanding lead.
Only it almost didn't last either.
"We put ourselves in a good position at the end," Kamp said. "You could say we should have been even in a better position with the lead toward the end. We just missed a few shots."
Asked about Gutierrez's ill-fated 3 at the end, Kamp said, "I thought it was good. I wouldn't rather have had anyone else take that shot."
Gutierrez ended up with 19 points, all in the second half, and Kamp added 17 points and nine rebounds. Powers also was a key contributor in only his sixth game of the season, chipping in 14 points as Crabbe's replacement in the starting lineup.
Montgomery said he's hopeful Crabbe will be able to play Thursday versus USC.
USC (13-12, 5-7 Pac-10) at Cal (13-12, 6-7), 7:30 p.m.