Allen Crabbe had defenders in his face all Sunday afternoon, but he just couldn’t stop scoring.
The junior Crabbe, who leads the Pac-12 in points per game, had the Midas touch for the Cal men’s basketball team as it pulled off a momentous 77-69 upset at No. 7 Arizona. The guard scored 31 points — two shy of his career best — on 12-for-15 shooting, leaving the Wildcats defense stumped.
Crabbe varied his shot selections throughout the game, leaving Arizona on its toes. Complementing his step-back 3-pointers that consistently swished through the net, Crabbe showed some much-needed assertiveness in driving down the lane for tough layups.
Twelve of Crabbe’s points came from beyond the arc; eight came from inside the paint.
In the second half, Crabbe scored 19 of his 31 points, silencing the McKale Center. But with the game on the line, it was fellow guard Justin Cobbs who muscled the Bears to a victory.
Cobbs scored seven of Cal’s final nine points. His cool composure with the ball in the high-pressure moments created scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself. With 42 seconds left on the clock, Cobbs drove in for a layup and converted; the shot was a dagger, providing the Bears with a six-point cushion.
Cobbs also got other Cal players on the court involved in crunch time, especially backup forward Bak Bak. The Sudanese big man, who averaged 1.5 points per game this season, made a rare second-half entrance late in the game in place of Richard Solomon, who earned his fourth personal foul.
Bak scored four points in back-to-back possessions — first with a layup, second with two free throws. Bak finished the win with a season-high six points.
Despite finishing the first half with a 38-33 lead, the Wildcats couldn’t maintain the momentum. Arizona conceded 17 points to Cal in the first five minutes. By the time the Wildcats mustered their second basket of the half at the 15:20 mark, the Bears were already up by seven.
The rest of the second half turned into a game of cat-and-mouse as the Wildcats pursued the Bears to no avail. While Arizona closed the deficit that was at one point wide as 10 points to two, it couldn’t take back the lead.
After guard Mark Lyons put the Wildcats down by two with two and a half minutes remaining, Cobbs responded immediately with a 3-pointer on the next possession. Lyons responded right after with a 3-pointer of his own, but Crabbe answered back with a jumper to keep the Bears ahead by at least two possessions.
Lyons’ 3-pointer was Arizona’s last points of the night. The Wildcats finished the game 0-for-5 from the field, including two 3-point prayers that fell short as airballs.
Arizona was the more balanced team on the stat sheet, with three players scoring in double-digits. Cal, sans Crabbe and Cobbs, had no double-digit scorers and only six points from the bench players — all from Bak Bak.
Seung Y. Lee covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected].