Washington Tops Cal To Win Pac-10 Championship, 79-75

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Washington, Cal All Set To Meet In Championship

For all the talk of how crazy the conference has been this year, the Pac-10 Tournament has provided a decidedly un-crazy showdown for its championship today, as the top two teams in the conference's preseason poll -- California and Washington -- will meet for the right to lock up an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Bears and Huskies have left little doubt who the two best teams in the conference are. Cal used a 22-7 second half run to put away a pesky UCLA team, 85-72, while Washington led from tip to finish in dispatching Stanford, 79-64.

UCLA was determined to interject some drama into the first semifinal, leading 39-30 with just over a minute to go in the first half. The Bruins were hot from all over the floor, while Cal's usually explosive offense had yet to take flight. But the Bears closed the gap before the buzzer, as Jerome Randle showed everyone why he's the Pac-10 player of the year by draining a 3-pointer off the dribble just before the horn.

From there, it was all about the Bears, says California Golden Blogs:

After Dragovic nailed a 3 to give UCLA a 44-42 lead, Cal went on a 22-7 run to effectively end the game. UCLA shot over their heads in the first half and returned to Earth to start the second, missing their first four shots and going 2 of 11 to start things off. A lot of this has to do with the ramping up of defensive effort, but some of it also has to do with poor shot selection. The Bruins shot 38% in the half, which just isn't going to end well if you're playing Cal.

And while the defense was the catalyst, it ultimately was the Bears' offense that proved to the be difference as they ended up scoring 1.23 points per possession when it was all said and done.

Washington, on the other had, was fueled by its defense -- which has increasingly become the Huskies' identity this season. Stanford shot just 31.3 percent overall for the game and posted just a 35.9 effective field goal percentage thanks in large part to a 6-for-23 performance from behind the arc. The Cardinal posted just .88 points per possession -- their second-lowest mark of Pac-10 play.

The showdown between Landry Fields and Quincy Pondexter would have to be considered a draw, with both players struggling at times to score efficiently from the field -- Pondexter with 19 points (on 5-of-12 shooting), seven rebounds and three assists, Fields with 20 points (on 6-of-15 shooting), 14 rebounds and one assist.

It's tough to know whether the drama has been removed from the championship or not in terms of the conference's postseason fate. It would be shocking if Cal wasn't a lock at this point, and most Bracketology experts seem to agree that Washington is one of the final handful of teams in. It's hard to believe that losing to the regular season conference champion in the final would do anything to diminish that. Regardless, it appears highly unlikely the Pac-10 will receive more than two bids tomorrow, which is still almost shocking to write.

Who will come out on top today? The two teams split their regular season meetings with each team winning convincingly at home. The Huskies' win came in the second weekend of the conference slate, though, with Jerome Randle hampered by a minor knee injury and the Bears' defensive catalyst, Jorge Gutierrez sitting out.

While both teams preach offense and like to get up and down the floor, the truth is that this game will be won or lost with UW's defense. The question is whether the Huskies can be the first team in a month to even sort of slow down the Bears' multifaceted attack.

The final tips off at 3:10 p.m PST on CBS.


UCLA, Cal, Stanford and UW All Advance To Semis; ASU Now On Wrong Side Of The Bubble

The first full day of the Pac-10 Tournament is in the books with mostly predictable results, but it's the one that didn't go according to plan that could have the conference hurting come Sunday.

Arizona State was thought to be on the verge of playing its way into the NCAA Tournament with a win or two in the conference tournament, and it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the Sun Devils were on a crash course with Washington in the semifinals.

Turns out, only the Huskies got the memo, as No. 2 seed ASU lost a stunner to No. 7 seed Stanford, 70-61.

The Sun Devils fell behind early, came back to take a one-point lead early in the second half, then watched the Cardinal go on a big run keyed by eight straight points from Landry Fields -- who finished with 17, while Jeremy Green finished with 18  -- and would never threaten again. It was just another mystifying result in what has been a strange year in the Pac-10, and it likely means ASU will be heading to the NIT when the postseason tips off next week.

Washington held up its end of the bargain and strengthened its case for an at-large bid by coming back from a 13-point second half deficit to defeat Oregon State, 59-52. The Beavers had succeeded in uglying the game up, holding the Huskies to just 23 points through the first 25 minutes, but then Washington remembered it was playing for its NCAA life, and began to do what it does best -- force turnovers on defense, crash the boards on offense, and watch Isaiah Thomas take over a game.

While it doesn't set up the NCAA Tournament showdown many were expecting, the UW/Stanford semifinal will feature one of the better individual battles you'll see in any conference on Friday: UW's Quincy Pondexter vs. Stanford's Fields. It's rare that you see two elite players literally go head to head, guarding each other on both ends of the floor. That's what you'll get tomorrow.

In the first game of the morning session, UCLA beat Arizona 75-69 in a game that was close throughout, but was led by the Bruins virtually the entire way. It marked the return of Reeves Nelson, who hadn't played since that ugly forehead-greets-floor incident in Pullman, which required surgery on his eye. He was big with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The loss finally extinguishes any flickering hope that the Wildcats would continue their 25 year run in the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins will meet conference regular season champ California in the semifinals after the Golden Bears easily handled Oregon, 90-74. Cal led by 22 with less than 10 minutes to go, powered in large part by conference player of the year Jerome Randle's 22 first-half points. It was a tough draw for the Ducks, who finished their overtime win against Washington State last night at about 10:30 p.m., then had to come back and play at 2:30 this afternoon.

With the loss, Ernie Kent has likely coached his final game for the Ducks.

Here's Friday's schedule. All times PST, all games broadcast on FSN.

Friday, March 12 - Semifinals
#5 UCLA vs. #1 Cal, 6 p.m.
#7 Stanford vs. #3 UW, 8:30 p.m.


Washington State First Team Out After Losing In OT To Oregon ... AGAIN

After watching a season that started with so much promise slide into a last place finish in a mediocre Pac-10, Washington State fans had to suffer one final indignity -- losing yet another overtime game to Oregon, 82-80, to be the only Pac-10 team eligible for the postseason to not be invited to the eight-team party on Thursday.

It was a typical Oregon/WSU affair, with the Ducks being led by Tajuan Porter, who, despite only averaging about 12 points per game in the regular season, somehow managed to go off for 32 points -- which he always seems to do against WSU.

The Ducks have made a habit out of beating the Cougs in improbable fashion over the years, and this game was no different as E.J. Singler tipped in a wild Porter shot as the buzzer expired in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Also improbable? Washington State had multiple chances to seal the game down the stretch with free throws, only to miss them again and again and again -- they would shoot just 12-of-25 from the line for the game. The Cougars shot better than 71 percent on their free throws up until tonight's game.

It was a poetic end to a season in which an absurdly young WSU team -- there is only one senior on the roster and no juniors -- has seemed to repeatedly be just one or two plays short. The game was in the bag ... and then it wasn't.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have granted coach Ernie Kent a stay of execution with their win (he's reportedly already been told he's been fired). They'll face top-seeded Cal in the quarterfinals on Thursday, a mere 16 hours after the end of tonight's game.

Here's the full slate of games for Thursday (all times PST, all games broadcast on Fox Sports Net):

Thursday, March 11 - Quarterfinals
#4 Arizona vs. #5 UCLA, Noon
#1 Cal vs. #8 Oregon, 2:30 p.m.
#2 Arizona State vs. #7 Stanford, 6 p.m.
#3 Washington vs. #6 Oregon State, 8:30 p.m.

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