TEMPE, Ariz. – Shantay Legans expected to have a chance to make a big play for California. He got it and made it.
Legans, who was 4-for-4 on 3-pointers, made the last of those with 2:45 to play, and the 21st-ranked Golden Bears pulled away from Arizona State for a 91-80 victory Thursday night.
“I usually have the ball in close situations like that,” said Legans, who had 20 points, five assists and four steals. “The coaches have confidence in me, and I have confidence in myself, so I just shot it.”
Amit Tamir followed Legans’ 3-pointer with another one 25 seconds later and the six-point boost gave the Golden Bears an 80-72 lead that proved insurmountable.
“We took advantage of some mismatches, and everybody contributed to this one,” California coach Ben Braun said. “We seemed to exploit whatever opportunities we had in the second half. Joe Shipp was scoring on the blocks, Ryan Kelly was getting some open jumpers, Shantay nailed a few, Amit gave us some big baskets.”
Tamir finished with 18 points and seven rebounds and Shipp also had 18 points for the Bears (21-6, 12-5 Pac-10), who remained in the race for the conference title.
Tommy Smith had a season-high 22 points and 10 rebounds for Arizona State (14-12, 7-10), while injured center Chad Prewitt had 17 of his 19 points in the second half.
Prewitt partially tore a ligament in his right elbow during practice on Tuesday.
“He’s a warrior, and he plays through that,” Arizona State coach Rob Evans said. “He’ll be in real early tomorrow morning, and he’ll be ready to play against Stanford on Saturday.”
Cal, which finished 17-1 at home, rallied to win for the fourth time in nine road games.
“That’s a sign of an older team,” Shipp said. “We talked in the locker room about, ‘We don’t want any letdowns tonight.’ We came out in the second half and played really aggressive.”
The Sun Devils led 59-53 after Smith made a layup off an inbounds pass with 9:36 to play.
But they went nearly six minutes without another field goal, and Cal caught up and went ahead with a 17-4 run that lasted 4:23.
Legans made two free throws with 6:16 to play as the Bears regained the lead, 64-63.
After a putback by Forehan-Kelly at the 5:41 mark, Smith was called for an intentional technical for pushing Forehan-Kelly in the back, and Evans benched him for the final 5:39.
Legans made the two technical free throws, and Cal led 68-63. Shipp banked in a 7-footer with 5:13 to go, and Arizona State got no closer than four points after that.
“I got caught pushing the guy,” Smith said. “It was retaliation from a couple of plays before, and I got caught for the technical, and from that point our team went down.”
There was only one lead change in the first half, but four in a 1:31 span of the second after the Bears made up a five-point halftime deficit.
Arizona State regained the lead at 53-52 with 12:24 remaining on two free throws by Kenny Crandall, starting an 8-1 surge which Smith capped with his layup.
No one but Smith, who had 16 points at halftime, had scored for Arizona State, and Cal had a 14-9 lead before James Braxton made a layup 5:49 into the game.
Crandall, playing for the first time since spraining his right foot on Jan. 31, tied it at 14 with a 3-pointer 24 seconds later, feeding a 17-3 run that gave the Sun Devils a 26-17 lead with 9:26 left in the half.
Legans made three 3-pointers over the next 2:43, getting the Bears within 30-26.