Jorge Gutierrez was stumbling, trying to find the handle on the basketball as he drove into the lane with Cal leading by one point. For a moment, it seemed to be slipping away ... just as a great opportunity was for the Golden Bears.
Then, while falling to the floor, Gutierrez somehow shuffled a pass to the right wing, where freshman Allen Crabbe -- who made just one of his first nine shots -- caught it and swished a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left.
Cal survived Arizona State 66-62 on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion and, in the process, moved within one game of second place in the Pac-10 standings. Winners of four in a row, the Bears (13-9, 6-4) are alone in fourth place, just behind Washington and UCLA.
"Oh, that's pretty good," said Gutierrez, admitting he had no idea that both Washington and Washington State (now in fifth place) had lost. "We're winning. I think it's working out for us."
Certainly the final sequence did.
"It was like the fumblerooski," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Getting this one is huge for us."
Gutierrez said he saw Crabbe on the wing when he got the ball and began penetrating ASU's defense.
"I lost it, but I just tried to grab it, and he made the shot," Gutierrez said.
"I had to hit at least one tonight -- I'm glad it was there," said Crabbe, who released the ball with two seconds on the shot clock. "You've got to have confidence when you shoot. You can't just shoot and hope it would go in."
Montgomery said that Crabbe, who averaged 17.4 points in his previous eight games, was too stationary against ASU's zone most of the night. "That was one of the few times he actually caught the ball with his feet set," he said of the final play. "He's a guy who's going to score big shots."
Gutierrez played 39 ferocious minutes, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and just one turnover. "I'm pretty tired," he said. "I'm happy we won."
Markhuri Sanders-Frison contributed 13 points and seven rebounds, and point guard Brandon Smith had 11 points, including a 3-pointer that gave Cal a 61-60 lead with 4:35 left.
Harper Kamp had 10 points, seven rebounds and blocked a shot by ASU's Trent Lockett with 48 seconds left to set up the decisive sequence. Crabbe added 10 points and six rebounds, as all five Cal starters reached double digits.
This one looked easy at the start, with the Bears making nine of their first 10 shots and scoring on 10 of their first 11 possessions against the last-place Sun Devils (9-13, 1-9). They led 22-13 after six minutes, but ASU didn't go away, trailing just 38-36 at halftime.
Cal shot just 26 percent in the second half and trailed 59-52 with 71/2 minutes left.
Having shifted permanently from their zone defense to man, the Bears got aggressive. After allowing three 3-point baskets in a 56-second blink, they didn't allow another field goal the rest of the night.
Crabbe, frustrated most of the night by ASU's matchup zone defense, hit two free throws. Gutierrez hit two, then Crabbe made two more before missing the third.
But Cal corralled the rebound and Smith put the Bears ahead 61-60 when he hit a 3-pointer off a pass from Gutierrez, who was falling out of bounds.
Lockett missed two foul shots for ASU, and Gutierrez sank a pair, pushing Cal into a 63-60 lead with 3:22 left. When Lockett converted two with 2:51 left, it was a one-point game.
Arizona (19-4, 8-2 Pac-10) at Cal (13-9, 6-4), 5 p.m., CSNCA