As he walked off the court to a standing ovation Saturday evening after Cal's 74-55 victory over Stanford, senior center Markhuri Sanders-Frison was privately hoping he won't be back for another game at Haas Pavilion.
"I want to play another game somewhere else," he said. "The NCAAs -- that's where I want to play. That and the Pac-10s. That's it."
The Bears (17-13, 10-8) closed out the Pac-10 schedule with a fourth straight win, avenging a 14-point loss to Stanford two months ago and delivering a fourth-place tie in the conference as an encore to their 2010 Pac-10 championship.
Still, they need three wins in the Pac-10 tournament at the Staples Center to secure the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Cal, as the No. 5 seed, begins that quest against No. 4 USC at 12:10 p.m. on Thursday. Anything short of the conference bid to the NCAAs likely would send Cal to the NIT, where it could host a first-round game.
"We can compete with anybody in this conference," said freshman guard Allen Crabbe, who had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists. "We're very confident. Our team chemistry continues to grow."
By securing a spot in the first-round game matching the No. 4 and 5 seeds, the Bears avoided the side of the bracket featuring third-place Washington, the league's only team to twice beat them decisively.
"There was a whole lot more at stake for us," said coach Mike Montgomery, who lost four starters from last
Stanford (15-15, 7-11) opens the Pac-10 tournament as the No. 8 seed Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. against ninth-seeded Oregon State.
Saturday's performance wasn't the way Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins wanted to head into the postseason.
"For us, it was more important to come out and keep playing well," he said. "We didn't play the way I would like to have seen us play tonight, quite frankly."
Hoping to trigger an aggressive start by opening in man-to-man defense, the Bears took early leads of 10-2 and 19-4, as Stanford made just two of its first 14 shots.
"I thought our guys were pretty persistent in terms of defense," Montgomery said.
"They defended at a high level," Dawkins agreed.
Cal led by 18 with less than 3 minutes left in the first half before Stanford scrapped back to 33-21 at the break. When Jeremy Green nailed a 3-pointer with 16:08 left in the game, the Cardinal trailed just 37-28.
The Bears responded with a 14-2 run, fueled by Crabbe's seven points, and regained control at 51-30. They led 74-46 when Montgomery pulled his starters with 2 minutes left.
It was a complete performance by the Bears, who got 20 points from forward Harper Kamp and 13 points and 13 rebounds from Sanders-Frison for his seventh double-double of the season. Guard Jorge Gutierrez scored just eight points but had seven assists and four steals.
The Bears shot 56 percent (although just 1 for 9 from 3-point range), out-rebounded the Cardinal 38-26 and outscored them 44-16 in the paint and 15-0 on fast-break points.
Stanford, which never really recovered from its gruesome start, was 4 for 21 from 3-point range, missed 10 free throws and provided little help to Green, who scored 19 points.
Two months after they totaled 41 points on 13-for-23 shooting against the Bears, Stanford's freshmen accounted for just 12 points on 5-for-25 accuracy.
at Staples Center, Los Angeles
Wednesday: No. 8 Stanford (15-15) vs. No. 9 Oregon State (10-19), 6:10 p.m., CSNBA
Thursday: No. 5 Cal (17-13) vs. No. 4 USC (18-13), 12:10 p.m., CSNBA
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