After his game-winner at Oregon, Justin Cobbs once again had the confidence to take another dagger shot at Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday.
With 37 seconds left to go and the Cal men’s basketball team leading 60-59 over Oregon State, Cobbs held onto the ball for 20-odd seconds by the midcourt before driving inside for a jumper. But unlike on Thursday, the ball bounced off the rim and into the arms of a Beaver with 4.3 seconds left on the clock.
Oregon State drew the final play up for backup guard Ahmad Starks. Starks, who hit two three-pointers in the game, sprinted down the court and released a desperate last-second shot.
The shot fell short, missing the backboard entirely. Cal (18-9, 10-5 in the Pac-12) came out of Gill Coliseum with its fifth straight win — its seventh in eight games.
The club dodged a bullet that could have damaged its strengthening March Madness portfolio.
“Guys are hanging together,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “We got out of Oregon with two wins, and that’s huge for us. It gives us a chance with three games at home.”
The Bears on Saturday did not bring any of the offensive firepower to the court that they had against UCLA at home and at No. 12 Arizona. Most players on the team, especially guard Allen Crabbe, struggled to shoot, shooting 40.4 percent from the field and making only five three-pointers in 17 attempts.
Crabbe, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, scored six points in 2-for-12 shooting. He made one three-pointer, one free throw and one floater inside the paint in 38 minutes of play.
In Crabbe’s place, Cobbs stepped up as the team’s primary scoring weapon with his mid-range jumpers and floaters. The junior guard scored a team-high 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting.
To Cal’s fortune, Oregon State (13-15, 3-12) had no shooting touch whatsoever for most of the 40 minutes. The Beavers shot 20-for-58 in total, only scoring 34.5 percent of all their shot attempts.
Early in the first half, Oregon State struggled to make even a single shot. With no offensive flow, the Beavers scored no points for approximately seven minutes starting from the 13:46 mark. Oregon State saw their 8-7 lead turn into a 22-8 deficit.
The Beavers dug out of their 14-point hole slowly but steadily thanks to center Joe Burton. The rotund big man played much smoother and quicker than expected for a man of his 275-pound frame.
Burton proposed a defensive dilemma for the Bears. Starting forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish were too slim to contain a post player like Burton.
Robert Thurman was heavily relied on in the first half to close down Burton, but his foul troubles prevented his playing time.
Burton flirted with a triple-double, recording 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“He’s just so doggone big,” Montgomery said. “He’s very clever with the ball.”
As the Beavers gnawed at Cal’s once 14-point lead and Crabbe unable to hit anything inside the basket, Cobbs was the Bears’ lone option in keeping the lead afloat.