LOS ANGELES — Cal probably needed one Pac-12 Tournament win to ensure itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bears got that win Thursday evening. Now, after Colorado knocked Cal out of the Pac-12 Tournament, 70-59, on Friday night, the Bears will just have to wait and see.
It started off about as horribly as possible for the second-seeded Bears (24-9) at Staples Center. Sixth-seeded Colorado (22-11) opened the semifinal matchup with a 12-2 run, as the Buffaloes looked about two steps quicker than Cal in the first three minutes, making five of their first six shots, including two 3-pointers.
But those weren’t the 10 points that cost the Cal men’s basketball team the game. Late in the second half, the Buffaloes went on a 10-0 run that spanned four minutes. Down 13 with four minutes to go, the Bears were out of time.
“Another gritty performance by the Buffaloes tonight, especially the second half,” said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle, referring to his team’s quarterfinal win over Oregon Thursday. “The guys have really responded to challenges at halftime, both nights. I can’t say enough about our team and their toughness over the last two games. This is the time of the year you wanna be doing that.”
Despite turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, Cal was able to chip away at the lead. Allen Crabbe’s 3-pointer brought the Bears within four with just under four minutes to go in the half. The sophomore guard blocked Jeremy Adams’ shot attempt with less than one minute remaining, and Justin Cobbs sunk a three for the final basket of the half. The Bears were down just a point.
Senior forward Harper Kamp (six points, 2-of-8 shooting) scored a fastbreak layup to open the second half and give Cal its first lead of the contest. For the next 10 minutes or so, no team had complete control, and the lead was often very temporary.
Eventually, Colorado’s hot shooting and physicality won out. The Buffaloes shot 59.1 percent in the second half, and starting forwards Andre Roberson and Austin Dufault combined for 32 points.
Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez (10 points, 4-of-10 shooting) made a layup at the 8:10 mark. The Bears did not score again until 3:51 remained, as Crabbe’s 3-pointer broke the 10-0 spurt. Crabbe completed a three-point play a minute later, but Cal would get no closer than seven points. The Bears couldn’t escape their .385 second half field goal percentage and 17 total turnovers.
Crabbe led all scorers with 18, and Cobbs added 15.
Carlon Brown chipped in 17 points for the Buffaloes, punctuating his performance with an acrobatic dunk in the final minute.
“Offensively, he’s been feeling it,” Boyle said. “He’s been playing with a sense of urgency right now that I love. These four seniors, it’s their last go-around.”
But was this the last go-around for Cal’s two seniors? The Bears have now lost three of their last four games.
Colorado will face Arizona in Saturday’s 3 p.m. tournament final for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, both teams controlling their own destiny.
The Bears, meanwhile, will turn on the TV at 3 p.m. on Sunday, their future decided by a room full of athletic directors and commissioners.
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