Jorge Gutierrez would not let Cal lose another close Pac-10 basketball game.
The junior guard scored nine of his career-high 34 points in overtime and assisted Brandon Smith on the biggest shot of the night -- a 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left that propelled the Bears to a 76-72 overtime victory over UCLA on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.
"Wow, that's the best game I've ever seen Jorge play," Smith said. "He played phenomenal. He was so aggressive. He really took us on his back tonight."
Cal (14-13, 7-8) had lost five Pac-10 games by four points or fewer, including a last-second 86-84 defeat at Pauley Pavilion last month, and had dropped its past four games to fall into the league's second division.
Now the Bears are tied with Washington State for sixth place.
"We've been right there with every team," Smith said. "We believe we can still beat anyone in the conference. Tonight was one of those statement games."
The Bears appeared to have this one after Gutierrez made four free throws in the final 22.6 seconds of regulation, giving them a 60-57 lead. UCLA's Malcolm Lee forced Cal into its third extra-time game of the season when he made a fadeaway 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded.
In the overtime, the Bears simply gave the ball to Gutierrez and let him attack. The second-place Bruins (19-8, 10-4) couldn't stop him. He scored on a jumper from the lane, then a drive to the basket, then another.
When he missed, Harper Kamp tipped the ball in. Each time, UCLA answered.
Gutierrez made the first but missed the second free throw with 1:19 left -- his only miss in 12 attempts -- and Kamp rebounded. When Gutierrez couldn't convert another drive to the basket, Markhuri Sanders-Frison deposited the putback and Cal's lead was 71-68 with 59 seconds left.
Again, the Bruins answered, this time on a layup by Reeves Nelson.
Gutierrez began his drive toward the lane and, as virtually the entire UCLA defense began to collapse on him, he zipped a pass to Smith in the right corner, and the sophomore guard from De La Salle High nailed the 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds left for a four-point lead.
"The whole time during overtime I had a feeling I was going to get another 3," Smith said. "When he passed it to me, I just stuck it."
Jerime Anderson scored on a drive for UCLA, but the Bruins couldn't catch anyone to foul until grabbing Gutierrez with 0.7 seconds left. He made two more at the line, and moments later Cal's students swarmed the court.
Often shy in group interview situations, Gutierrez declined to meet with reporters after also contributing six assists, three steals, three rebounds and taking two charges.
"I was really tired, but I knew my team needed me," he said in a statement. "I just kept shooting it, trying to get this win for my team."
Cal coach Mike Montgomery said Gutierrez had family from Mexico in town, adding, "That's OK with me if he can play like that."
Cal led from the start, energized by the opportunity to play man-to-man defense after a recent steady diet of zone. The Bears held UCLA to 29 percent shooting in the first half while building a 29-18 lead.
"I just said, 'Let's go get 'em,' " Montgomery recalled thinking. "The thing that was interesting was their eyes lit up. Jorge kind of smiled. I challenged them and it helped with their aggressiveness."
The Bears welcomed back freshman guard Allen Crabbe, who had missed the previous two games after suffering a concussion Feb. 10 at Washington. Crabbe scored just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting but grabbed seven rebounds, and Montgomery said his presence stretched the UCLA defense.
Sanders-Frison had 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for Cal. Lee led the Bruins with 19 points, including 10 for 10 at the foul line.
Cal (14-13, 7-8 Pac-10) at Oregon (14-12, 7-7), 6 p.m., CSNCA