With a tied game and the shot clock turned off, everyone in Matthew Knight Arena knew who was taking the last shot.
Except Allen Crabbe never touched the ball on that fateful possession on Thursday night in Eugene, Ore. Crabbe, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, was denied going around a curl on the right side of the floor, so Brandon Smith passed to Justin Cobbs on the opposite wing.
Cobbs, who had committed eight of the Cal men’s basketball team’s 16 turnovers, had a shot at redemption. The junior guard took one dribble to his left, stopped and let it fly.
That the Bears defeated No. 23 Oregon, 48-46, is no surprise, given Cal’s recent play.
The Bears (17-9, 9-5 in the Pac-12) have won six of their last seven, including a road win at Arizona, a home massacre of UCLA and now a series sweep of the Ducks (21-6, 10-4).
Cal may not have played its best in Thursday night’s win, which brought the club within one game of first-place Oregon. However, the Bears played better than the Ducks when it counted.
Mike Montgomery’s club struggled with scoring and turnovers all night. After scoring the game’s first six points, Cal went cold. The Ducks went on a 16-2 run, which included nine points from reserve forward Carlos Emory, who finished with a team-high 13.
Crabbe, coming off consecutive Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, never quite got going. The junior swingman tallied 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. He did not make his first field goal until more than 16 and a half minutes had passed in the first half. He scored six during a 10-2 spurt that brought the floundering Bears to within three late in the half.
The Ducks led, 26-21, at the break behind forward Arsalan Kazemi’s monstrous 14 rebounds.
After both teams traded a basket to open the second half, Crabbe and Cobbs nailed consecutive buckets to narrow Oregon’s advantage to 28-27. From that point on, neither team led by more than four.
In fact, Cal did not regain the lead until Cobbs hit a jumper at the 7:14 mark.
The Ducks struggled to find the basket, connecting on a measly 27.6 percent of their field goals against Cal’s mix of man-to-man and 1-2-2 zone. The Bears helped Oregon out by turning the ball over and fouling.
Cobbs — who had a near quadruple-double with a game-high 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to go along with his eight turnovers — found backup big man Robert Thurman for layups on consecutive possessions to tie the game at 46 with 2:06 remaining.
Oregon had two chances to take the lead but missed two jumpers, giving Cal the ball with a full 35 seconds.
That was more than enough time for Cobbs, whose shot with 0.7 seconds left might just put the Bears on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.