STANFORD, Calif. (AP)- Harper Kamp's face turned red and his eyes welled with tears while he described California's tumble from the Pac-12 tournament's top seed to possibly needing to play its way back into the NCAA tournament.
Leave it to the Bay Area rivalry to produce such emotions.
Chasson Randle scored 17 points, Aaron Bright had 12 points and hit some big free throws in the final minute and Stanford denied rival California a share of the league's regular-season title with a 75-70 victory on Sunday.
After losing at Colorado last week, the Golden Bears (23-8, 13-5) have suddenly dropped two straight for the first time all season and with little time to recoup.
"Our team just isn't focused enough. I don't think we realized what was on the line," Kamp said, his voice cracking. "This is unacceptable. Guys got to put aside whatever else is going on right now and realize that we worked too hard to let this slide. This is what we've been working for all our lives."
Stanford (20-10, 10-8) stole the spotlight in an instant.
Andrew Zimmermann added 13 points and made both of his 3-point attempts to help the Cardinal build a 15-point lead it never surrendered. Stanford also sealed a 20-win season for the first time since coach Johnny Dawkins' opening year in 2008-09 and enjoyed nothing more than shattering its cross-bay rival's championship dreams.
"They came in knowing that it meant more to them, but as a program, it meant a lot to us too," said Zimmermann, one of four Stanford seniors honored for the regular-season finale. "We needed to come in and build some momentum and prove to ourselves that we're one of the better teams in this conference."
At least for one day, they did.
Allen Crabbe scored 20 points and Kamp added 19 points and seven rebounds as the Bears fell short of sharing the conference crown with Washington and securing the top seed in the league tournament. Cal, which beat Stanford 69-59 in Berkeley on Jan. 29, has won only two of its last 11 trips to Maples Pavilion.
"We looked nervous. We played nervous. We acted nervous," said a frustrated Cal coach Mike Mongtomery, the Cardinal's coach from 1986-2004. "I'm not sure some of the guys knew how to handle what we were up against."
Senior Day still almost morphed into a Cardinal collapse.
Kamp converted a three-point play after getting held by Randle and finishing at the rim, and David Kravish followed with an alley-oop layup from Justin Cobbs that sliced Stanford's lead to three with 1:53 remaining.
Josh Owens missed the front-end of a one-and-one and fouled out going for the rebound. Crabbe made one of two free throws to pull the Bears within 72-70.
Bright made the first free throw on Stanford's next possession, then missed the second but corralled the rebound. Bright repeated the free throw-rebound combination twice more in stunning fashion, and the Cardinal held on for a victory that provided some much-needed momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament.
"We're playing with nothing to lose," Zimmermann said.
One of the worst starts of the year for Cal was just too much to overcome.
The two teams also had some heated exchanges typical of the long-running Bay Area rivalry. They combined for four technical fouls- two on each side- and stayed on edge for 40 minutes.
The first exchange started when Cobbs and Zimmermann bumped chests. Cardinal guard Jarrett Mann interceded, setting off a brief scrum that never escalated beyond a few shoves. Cobbs and Mann were called for technical fouls.
The emotions energized the home crowd during the delay- with cheers of "Go Stanford!" drowning out Bears fans- and triggered an 18-4 run by the Cardinal highlighted by a dazzling dribbling display, a 3-pointer and a short jumper by Randle to give Stanford a 21-8 lead.
"We just played really soft," Kamp said. "Not a single one of us was prepared to play."
The Bears made just three of their first 17 shots from the floor, and leader Jorge Gutierrez- who had just eight points, three rebounds and two assists- also picked up two fouls in the first 5:02, relegating him to the bench. Cal fell behind by 15 points, and officials whistled Gutierrez for a technical foul late in the half after Cal's fiery point guard shouted at Dwight Powell.
That exchange seemed to pull the Bears out of hibernation.
Cobbs made a jumper and Crabbe added a 3-pointer to cap a quick burst of offense that chopped Cal's deficit to only four late in the half. Crabbe's 3-pointer 14 seconds into the second half brought the Bears within 39-37, the closest they would get until 71 seconds remained.
"We've been at this point a few times this season, and this is the first time I feel we really took that step," Dawkins said. "And that was great for our guys to see, because now I think they realize how good they can be."
- Antonio Gonzalez, Associated Press
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Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins
"I thought it was just a hard-fought game by both teams. I thought both teams came in prepared, and I thought both teams really put their best foot forward. I think we just, at the end, we had a little more, and we were able to come out with a terrific win for our team and for our program."
On the four technical fouls and 40 personal fouls called in the game...
"That hasn't been our character. We just want to go out there and compete and give ourselves a chance to win, and I thought our guys did a great job of battling all night, as did Cal, and we were fortunate to win."
On keeping Andrew Zimermmann in the game with three fouls in the first half...
"I don't know about a vision, but I felt good with Zimmermann in the game, and I knew he understood how to play with three fouls. I knew he wouldn't go out there and pick up another one quick, and that's the trust you have to have in a player, especially a senior. I mean, he's been with me and developed that over time, that feel for a player and what he's doing. He came out today and gave us a big lift."
On finishing with a winning record in Pac-12 play...
"I think it's important. You want momentum going into the tournament, and we've been at this point a few times this season, and this is the first time I've felt that we really took the step, and that was great for our guys to see, because now I think they realize just how good we can be if we play this way. That's something you can only gain through having experience like this, but also coming out and winning in a big game."
On heading down to the wide-open Pac-12 Tournament...
"We said that going into the season there was a lot of parity in our conference. It's something that I think will show itself in the tournament as well. I think there are a number of teams that have a chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament. It starts with believing, first of all, and it starts with going out there and executing. And like I said, we look at every team as a potential team that can win it, and we have to face it that way every time we go out on the court and play...Absolutely, our team [can win it] as well. We can compete but there are 11 other teams that can do the same."
On freshman guard Chasson Randle's team-leading 17 points...
"I've been very proud of Chasson all season long. I think he has an amazing appetite to get better, he wants to learn and improve. I think it's shown this season, if you look at the progression he's made from the beginning of the season to now, he's only continually getting better, and that says a lot about him. As a freshman coming in it's a long season, plus we went to Spain this summer. For a freshman to continue to have this kind of energy and this type of effort is unique, and I really enjoy watching his overall development."
Senior forward Andrew Zimmermann
On ending his home career with a win over Cal...
"It feels great, to know that guys stepped up and made big plays when we needed to make them. At the end of the game, they went on a run and in the past it's been something that we've struggled with, down the stretch. We closed the game and we made the plays we needed to make. So it just felt great for me to know that guys stepped up to help us and the seniors win the game."
On denying Cal the Pac-12 regular-season title...
"As a competitor you don't ever want to lose at home, or anywhere, and that they came in thinking that it meant more to them, but as a program, it meant a lot to us too. We needed to come in and build some momentum, prove to ourselves that we're one of the better teams in our conference. We've been up and down, and it takes beating other teams to put yourself in that category. We're starting to do that, realize that we can be that type of team."
Freshman guard Chasson Randle
On the intensity of the Stanford-Cal rivalry... "It means a lot to both teams, and it's always a hard-fought game, I'm learning that now, and you come out with some bumps and bruises, but it's all worth it, definitely. I enjoyed it and I'm just glad we came out with the victory."
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Head Coach Mike Montgomery
On whether Cal was under too much pressure to win...
"Possibly. I'm not some of our guys knew how to handle what we were up against. To Stanford's credit they came out and were extremely physical early, and got into our heads, if nothing else. There were a lot of fouls. We had a hard time doing anything. Jorge got two quick ones, we were struggling without him. Then he got the technical, so I had to take him out."
General thoughts on the game...
"We looked nervous, we played nervous, we acted nervous. We're not playing as well as we have been, and we don't seem to trust each other as far as making the extra pass and helping each other out on offense. All that being said, after being down 15, we had three opportunities to tie or go ahead late in the game. But we missed three free throws, we fumbled it out of bounds, we failed to block off a couple times. Those are plays, at that stage of the game, that had we made them, the pressure shifts a little bit. But we didn't make those plays."
"Stanford played well. Zimmermann came out and shot the ball well, Chasson Randle is awfully good right now. They say (Tony) Wroten (of Washington) is the freshman of the year right now, but I'm not so sure Randle isn't awfully good as a freshman."
On the play of Jorge Gutierrez...
"Jorge is really fighting demons right now and isn't able to get much done. We need Jorge. He defended extremely well. He gets himself in trouble, he gets frustrated -- we need him."
Senior forward Harper Kamp
General thoughts on the game...
"We were outplayed completely and were playing soft, and not one of us was ready to play today. I don't know why we weren't ourselves today, but we weren't. Stanford had a physical presence right off, and I guess that took us out of our rhythm a little bit."