“Survived” is probably an apt description.
The Cal men’s basketball team outlasted a scoring flurry by Washington to defeat the Huskies, 69-66, on Thursday evening at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
The Bears (16-4, 6-1 in the Pac-12) held a comfortable eight-point lead with two and a half minutes remaining in the contest. Then everything unraveled.
Washington forward Desmond Simmons stole the ball from Harper Kamp and found wing Terrence Ross for a 3-pointer. Then, it was senior guard Jorge Gutierrez’s turn to turn the ball over, and Simmons took advantage with a layup. Suddenly it was a one-possession game.
The Huskies (11-7, 4-2) fouled Kamp, who sunk both free throws. Ross, coming off a 30-point performance on Sunday that earned him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, missed a 3-pointer at the other end but earned another shot after Darnell Gnat’s offensive board, and he drained it. Simmons fouled point guard Justin Cobbs, who split the pair. Washington had one more opportunity, down three with eight seconds left on the clock.
Alas, Washington ran out of time — and luck — as Gant’s 3-point attempt was short, giving the Bears their first win in Seattle in three years.
“We talked about fouling, but it’s not something we worked on,” said Cal head coach Mike Montgomery. “Conventional wisdom, most coaches don’t. But the way Ross had shot the ball, for example, we certainly thought about it.
“We were trying to switch everything and thought that Ross would probably get it.”
It was billed a duel between Cal’s trio of guards and Washington’s pair of athletic wings. But it turned out to be a battle of bigs for much of the game.
Allen Crabbe snapped out of his mini-shooting slump to score 16 points, but reserve forward Robert Thurman may have been the story of the game for the Bears. With extra playing time in place of Richard Solomon, who was declared academically ineligible on Wednesday, Thurman made 7-of-11 shots for 16 points. The junior forward also grabbed seven rebounds in 21 minutes of play.
The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder was Cal’s best matchup against the Huskies’ 7-foot center, Aziz N’diaye. The junior, who ranks third in the conference in rebounds, had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards, but he was negated by Thurman’s career night.
Crabbe also had a double-double, pulling down a team-high 10 rebounds, but his shooting was just as helpful. The sophomore guard was just 1-for-8 from long range in last weekend’s two contests, but he hit a three to put the Bears on the scoreboard. A minute later, he hit another jumper.
“When a team gets down like we did it’s tough to come all the way back,” said Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar. “The worst thing I think we did early was we didn’t get back in transition, and we allowed too much dribble penetration.”
The Bears went on a 9-2 run in the middle of the first half and held a comfortable 35-25 lead at the half. It was low scoring in part because neither team could connect from behind the arc in the first half; Cal was 2-for-7, while Washington was 1-for-8.
The Bears took a 13-point lead when Crabbe stole the ball and found Gutierrez for a layup. But the Huskies responded with a 9-2 streak to cut the margin to four with under eight minutes to go.
“They can be very, very aggressive … they just got out and sold out,” Montgomery said. “We turned the ball over too much, sometimes for no reason. And sometimes those lead to easy shots for them, easy baskets.”
Brandon Smith, playing in his first game since suffering a concussion against Oregon State on Jan. 5, played 14 minutes off the bench and pitched in two points and two rebounds.