Down two with 16.5 seconds remaining, Oregon coach Dana Altman called timeout and drew up a play for his best shooter.
On Saturday afternoon, the Cal men’s basketball team had answered the No. 10 Ducks’ 11-0 run with a 14-4 spurt, but when the ball left forward E.J. Singler’s hands, it seemed like the Bears were in for another heart-wrenching loss.
Yet Singler’s 3-point attempt was short. It grazed off the front of the rim into Oregon center Tony Wood’s hands, and as he brought the ball back up to attempt the shot, the ball hit the hand of David Kravish.
Jump ball, awarded to Cal.
Two free throws later, the Bears had a 58-54 win, and mobs of students rushed the Haas Pavilion court.
“I’ve been here for three years, and I’ve never had anything like that,” said forward Richard Solomon, who tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds. “I think it gives us a little energy boost, taking care of business at home.”
Cal’s first weekend sweep of the conference season coincided with the Ducks’ first two Pac-12 losses. Oregon (18-4, 7-2 in the Pac-12), playing without injured starting point guard Dominic Artis, also lost to Stanford on Wednesday night.
Two days after slogging their way to a surprisingly close win over Oregon State, the Bears (13-8, 5-4) turned to their defense when the shots weren’t falling. Cal overcame a 35.6 percent shooting clip by forcing 22 turnovers and stealing the ball 12 times.
“Obviously, we weren’t very smooth offensively,” said Cal coach Mike Montgomery. “I thought we hung in defensively, which is a huge step for us.”
While the first half was characterized by sloppy play and little rhythm, the second period was chock-full of momentum swings.
After gliding through the lane and dumping off a pass to forward Robert Thurman for a dunk, guard Tyrone Wallace drained a three in transition — his third 3-pointer of the contest — to give Cal a 42-39 edge with 11:29 remaining.
The Bears would not score again for more than five minutes, turning the ball over five times while Oregon retook the lead and extended it to 50-42.
Following a Kravish bucket, Cal stole the ball on consecutive possessions to shave another four points off the deficit.
Oregon scored back-to-back baskets, but the Bears responded with a 10-0 run to close out the game. An Allen Crabbe-Justin Cobbs fastbreak give-and-go tied the game at 54 with 2:20 left, and Cobbs’ jumper nearly a minute later gave Cal the lead.
In preparing for the game, Montgomery stressed limiting Oregon’s transition game and second-chance shots. The Ducks finished with three second-chance points and six fastbreak points.
“We tried to make them make mistakes,” Kravish said. “I think this game really showed what we can do when we put it together.”
Cal’s last best chance for a top-25 win was Dec. 9 against UNLV. The Rebels scored off an offensive rebound in the last second to steal the win.
Kravish wouldn’t let that happen Saturday.
As Solomon put it, “Defense wins games.”
Jonathan Kuperberg covers men’s basketball. Contact him at [email protected]