With 20 seconds left in regulation and the Bears down three with a chance to tie the game, guard Allen Crabbe caught the ball on the perimeter and drove to his left. But the ball bounced off his knee as he brought the ball up for a layup, and a frantic Cal run at the end of the game came up short as the Bears fell to Arizona State, 66-62, Thursday night in Tempe, Ariz..
Sun Devils guard Evan Gordon scored 23 points and forced 18 turnovers and dominated the contest until their offense went stagnant in the final minutes.
Arizona State shot 47.1 percent from the field, eviscerating the Cal defense in the first half by finding open looks near the basket with regularity and spacing the floor for their shooters.
The game began rather innocuously, with the Sun Devils emerging with a 10-8 advantage at the first TV timeout.
Coming out of the break, Arizona State went right at the Bears’ throats. The Sun Devils compiled a 15-1 run, with Cal turning the ball over six times in an eight-minute stretch.
Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and Carrick Felix had no trouble penetrating and either finishing in the lane themselves or kicking out to three-point specialists Evan Gordon and Jonathan Gilling for wide-open 3-pointers.
With nine minutes remaining in the half, Gordon drove down the lane in transition right into Bears guard Brandon Smith. Smith fouled Gordon, but Gordon completed the layup and the ensuing free throw, bringing the Arizona State lead to 22-9.
Crabbe did his best to bring the Bears back into it. He drained a long jumper off the dribble to break the Arizona State run, kicking off a 10-0 Bears run that included seven points by Crabbe. Cal’s response cut the Sun Devils’ lead to six.
Gordon and Gilling knocked down threes on back-to-back possessions with just under three minutes left in the first half, increasing the lead to 13 and giving Arizona State a comfortable cushion before the half.
Gordon continued his scoring ways at the commencement of the second half, sinking a corner three on their first possession to put the Sun Devils up 40-27.
Cal hung around for most of the half, however. Arizona State was unable to deliver the knockout blow.
The Sun Devils’ lead grew to 15 at one point, behind the strong play of Carson and Gordon. But the Bears punched right back, initiating a 6-0 run thanks to a couple of righty jump-hooks from freshman guard Tyrone Wallace.
Wallace then knocked down a three-pointer with six minutes left to reduce the Arizona State to just six. As Cal heated up, the Sun Devils offense stalled mightily down the stretch, scoring just six points in the final eight minutes.
Justin Cobbs hit a three with 26 seconds remaining to cut the Arizona State lead to just two.
Gordon hit one of two free throws in the ensuing possession, handing Cal a chance to tie it up and send it to overtime.
But Crabbe turned it over for the second time in the final minute, fumbling away their NCAA chances as the ball rolled off of his left thigh.
Michael Rosen covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]al.org.