Cal-'Zona goes out kicking and screaming

At some level, it probably doesn't matter. What made the incident an incident, so to speak, was the reaction of Cal's Jorge Gutierrez. He wigged out. Had he not -- had he let whatever happened on the Arizona bench roll off, had he laughed it off and ran back into the play, and so on -- whatever happened or didn't happen, minor though it may (or may not!) have been, would be far less worthy of our attention.

Anyway, in case you missed it Thursday night, in the midst of Cal's eventual 78-74 home loss to Arizona, Gutierrez chased a loose ball down and landed precariously on Arizona's bench. As the besuited coaches seated on the sideline sort of scrambled out of the way, one coach, former Cal, now-Arizona assistant Joe Pastnernack seemed to strongly dislike Gutierrez's chosen collision course. He flailed his legs at the Cal guard and, according to Gutierrez (via teammate Harper Kamp after the game), said something that Gutierrez didn't like one bit. On the video, it certainly looks like Pasternack is displeased at Gutierrez's incursion into the bench. He looks rather angry as he flails his legs about. (I can't find a legal copy of the video highlights, but just look around. They're out there.)

Does that mean he said something, or intentionally tried to kick the Cal guard? No. Does it mean Gutierrez was making a bigger deal of it than it really was in the hopes of pumping himself and/or his teammates into a motivational frenzy? Maybe? Maybe not? Given Pasternack's face and Gutierrez's reaction, it's hard not to think something went awry. But it's really hard to say exactly what.

In the end, it didn't matter much. Arizona coach Sean Miller stepped in and handled Gutierrez without reacting in an obviously negative manner. Cal coach Mike Montgomery came to midcourt to confer his own advice about the situation. Neither team was penalized for the mini fracas, and it didn't really affect the game going forward. Cal had already been closing Arizona's second-half lead when Gutierrez went flying at the 4:46 mark; the Bears continued to their streak after things calmed down. In the end, it didn't hurt, but it didn't help: Cal went on to tie the game at 72-72 with 3:43 remaining, but ended up losing in the final moments all the same.

Great win for Arizona, but Cal may remember it as the one that got away. The Bears lost a home game to a team that was 5-4 and struggling mightily at times in Pac-12 play, and they did it just as Washington has emerged as a co-conference contender with another big win (this one over UCLA) Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Pac-12 as a whole needed a dominant league performance from Cal; without it, it's hard to argue this league has any signal that will rightfully deserve at-large bids come March. The conference favorite's home loss to Arizona won't help that impression.