The Cal men’s basketball team was about to run away with it, though it started with a scare. Once again, the Bears found themselves down big early in the first half. Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy reeled off 10 straight points after the first television timeout, putting Cal in a seven-point hole. But Justin Cobbs and company started nailing shots and getting stops, closing the half on a 12-0 run to give them a 39-30 lead. Washington State, debatably the worst team in the conference, would keel over. The Bears (16-8, 7-4 Pac-12) had an easy win.
And then Lacy got hotter than a stove on high.
Lacy hit six 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the second half, singlehandedly dragging the Cougars back into the game. He hit threes of all kinds — step-backs, catch-and-shoot, pull-up, off-the-dribble. It turned out Lacy was just one 3-pointer short. With 20 seconds left in overtime and Washington State trailing by a point, the junior jacked up a contested 26-footer. The ball rammed off the backboard, and Cobbs was fouled, effectively ending the contest. On Wednesday night at the Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash., Cal escaped with a 80-76 overtime win.
Lacy also missed an opportunity to give the Cougars (9-15, 2-10) a definitive lead at the end of regulation, clanking a 30-footer off the rim with less than a minute left. Cobbs grabbed the rebound, ran coast-to-coast and contorted his body for the go-ahead layup while drawing a foul. He converted at the line, and Cal had a two-point lead with 25 seconds left.
It’s not difficult to guess whom Washington State chose to give the ball to. Lacy, who finished with a career-high 39 points, started at the top of the perimeter and drove left with Tyrone Wallace tight on his hip. Contact was initiated near the foul line, and Wallace was called for the foul. Lacy sank both free throws, and Cobbs bricked a jumper as time expired.
Cal forward Richard Solomon — who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds — fouled out a minute into overtime, forcing head coach Mike Montgomery to play four guards for the final four minutes of the game. Cougars forward D.J. Shelton took advantage, using his superior frame to drive and draw free throws, which he sank. Washington State took a 73-71 lead with under four minutes left.
After Ricky Kreklow scored off a putback to tie the game at 73, he stole the ball from Lacy and pushed it up-court. Cobbs was fouled on the other end and made one of two free throws, giving the Bears a one-point lead.
The score remained locked at 74-73 until Lacy’s late 3-pointer bounced off the backboard, forcing the Cougars to foul Cobbs, who made both free throws and gave the Bears a three-point lead.
Cal and Washington State traded off free throws for the ensuing three possessions. Montgomery, afraid to concede a game-tying 3-pointer, forced Wallace to foul Ike Iroegbu with the Bears up three and just five seconds left. Iroegbu made the first and intentionally missed the second, hoping the Cougars would grab the rebound. The prayer went unanswered; Cobbs, who scored all 22 of his points in the second half and overtime, snagged the rebound and sprinted down the court, throwing down an emphatic slam dunk as the backboard lit up and the final buzzer sounded.