Monte Poole believes Jorge was instrumental to the second half surge that propelled the Bears to their first conference championship in 60 years.
Even in the celebratory aftermath of a 62-46 win over Arizona State Saturday, giving the Golden Bears at least a share of the Pac-10 Conference title for the first time since 1960, there was at least one other gloriously vivid lasting impression.
That would be Jorge Gutierrez coming off the bench in a high-pitched frenzy, ponytail flopping at the back of his neck, swiping at passes, flicking at dribblers, putting his nose into the chest of any and every opponent.
It was Gutierrez who provided a most memorable farewell for Cal's five seniors playing their final game at Haas.
He also provided an unforgettable 63rd birthday for coach Mike Montgomery.
It was Gutierrez who on this day provided Cal with infinitely more than his ordinary statistical line (six points, two rebounds, two assists in 20 minutes) would suggest.
"He just started guarding everybody," Montgomery said of Gutierrez.
This was, of course, an exaggeration, but only by the slightest of measurements.
"He was Jorge, just being fearless," senior forward Jamal Boykin said.
No exaggeration at all.
The Sun Devils, after taking a 30-29 lead into halftime, scored a mere 16 points in the second half. No individual had more to do with that than Gutierrez, who doesn't seem to know or care that he is a 6-foot-2 sophomore.
Cal took control by outscoring Arizona State 15-2 during a span of less than seven minutes in the second half. Gutierrez was the catalyst, throwing himself into any and every opponent he encountered, guards and forwards and centers, with equal abandon. He was an "energy guy" on a mission.
"He's a very quiet kid, unassuming, with a great sense of how to help in any way he needs to," Montgomery said. "He'll make a great play that others won't make."
Gutierrez dived for loose balls, crashed for rebounds, ran the point with surprising effectiveness, saw the floor as if he has six eyes. He galvanized the Bears and disrupted the Sun Devils. At a critical time, Gutierrez was that rarest of players, taking over the game on both ends without volume scoring.
Still, with Bears scoring leader Jerome Randle getting only seven points on 3-for-11 shooting, 12 below his average, Gutierrez responded to yet another alarm in his head. Make an impact. His only points came on a dunk that gave the Bears 44-39 lead, a layup-free throw 3-point play about a minute later and a free throw to put Cal up 53-42 with 7:35 to play.
"He went down the middle on one play," Boykin said. "I thought he was going to lay it up. He dunked it."
After the jump we have photos, recaps, videos, and more of the greatest day for Cal basketball in decades. Faraudo takes us on a trip through the history books, Randle and Boykin talk about what they'll do with their pieces of the net, the team sings a rousing "Happy Birthday" to Monty, and more.
Thanks to geebear for the following two videos:
- From the birth of Jeff Tedford to The Play to the election of Obama, A LOT has happened since Cal last won the conference.
- Ted Lee gives us some comprehensive statistics from the game.
- BearInsider has a video of the Senior Day ceremonies (scroll to the bottom for the video).
- Faraudo follows the game from the tense first half to the dominant D of the second half. The first nearly-30 minutes of the game were very competitive until Cal blew the game open with some fantastic defense. DailyCal recaps the game and the celebration afterward. Bear Territory recaps the game. Afterwards, Randle said he's giving his piece of the net to his mother, Zsa-Zsa. Boykin joked that he would sell his on eBay. Once the Bears went back into the locker room, they sang a spirited "Happy Birthday" to Monty. ESPN declares that Monty is "back on top." In the post-game press conference, Monty was obviously very proud of his team.
- Daily Cal has a photo slideshow from the game. GoldenBearSports.com has several photos from the opening Senior Day ceremonies to the cutting of the net. CalBears.com has its own photo gallery.
- Faraudo has plenty of tidbits of info that didn't make it into the print edition of his story.
- BearInsider's Ted Lee talks about what a monumental accomplishment the Pac-10 crown is for Cal.
- MoragaBear has video of the final few minutes of the game and the beginning of the postgame celebration.