California-Arizona St. Preview
California hopes the second or third seed in next week's Pac-12 tournament will help ease the pain of maybe its most crushing loss.
To grab one of those, the Golden Bears will likely have to win at a place they haven't in almost five years - in the same state of their latest and most stunning defeat.
Just two days after coughing up a late lead at Arizona, 25th-ranked California visits Arizona State for Saturday night's regular-season finale.
The Golden Bears (21-9, 11-6) are deadlocked with the Wildcats after Thursday's 64-61 loss, but they still hold the third seed for next week's tourney in Las Vegas thanks to a tiebreaker.
The No. 2 seed isn't out of the question, either.
If Cal wins and No. 13 Utah loses its Saturday home game against Colorado, the Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Runnin' Utes for the second seed. California could drop to the fourth spot with a loss and No. 18 Arizona's 13th straight win over Stanford.
The Golden Bears could have taken care of that last scenario on Thursday while remaining in contention for a share of the Pac-12 title, which No. 9 Oregon can claim outright Saturday with a win at USC.
Instead, they blew an eight-point lead in the final 1:52 as the Wildcats scored the last 11 points for a shocking turnaround, snapping California's seven-game win streak. Cal did plenty to win the game early, outrebounding one of the nation's top teams in that category 44-31 and holding a 28-10 edge in second-chance points.
But the Golden Bears shot just 36.5 percent and made only 6 of 17 3s.
''It's a tough loss,'' coach Cuonzo Martin said after his team fell to 3-7 on the road. ''You always think about the end result and feel that you let one slip, but you learn from it and grow.''
Two days later, Martin's team will try to end a three-game losing streak in Tempe. The Sun Devils have won three straight there in this series and haven't lost at home against the Golden Bears since Jan. 8, 2011.
But California's 75-70 home win on Jan. 21 snapped Arizona State's five-game win streak in this series overall. Freshman forward Ivan Rabb scored a season-high 20 points and piled up eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks as the Bears shot 54.5 percent.
Rabb is half of Cal's dynamic freshman duo in the frontcourt. The other is Jaylen Brown, who leads all Pac-12 freshmen with 15.5 points per game and scored 17 against the Sun Devils. Brown, though, struggled to 2-for-9 shooting in Thursday's loss while Rabb posted 15 points and 13 boards.
Arizona State (15-15, 5-12) snapped a four-game skid and improved to 11-5 at Wells Fargo Arena with Thursday's 74-64 victory over Stanford.
The Sun Devils, locked into the 11th seed, built a 37-22 halftime lead behind a dominant rebounding effort and finished with a 38-27 advantage on the boards - with 15 offensive rebounds amounting to a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points.
''If you take good shots that your teammates expect you to take and you miss, they're in good position to rebound,'' coach Bobby Hurley said.
Arizona State has shot just 37.9 percent in nine games since Jan. 31, good for an average of 68.1 points. California is the Pac-12's best defense, allowing 66.6 points per game on 39 percent shooting.