Time was not on the Bears’ side.
With just more than two seconds left to play in overtime, a long pass from junior guard Sam Singer to freshman forward Jaylen Brown set up a missed three that cost Cal the game and ended a five-game winning streak.
And at the end of Tuesday night, all Cal could do was watch as No. 5 Virginia, and the Cavaliers’ home crowd, littered with blue and orange, celebrated a victory that had been the Bears’ for all but a measly 32 seconds.
The Cal men’s basketball team (9-3) fell to Virginia (10-1) in overtime, 63-62, despite shocking the Cavaliers and everyone else in Charlottesville, Virginia by coming out strong and remaining in control of the game for almost the entire night.
The Bears came out of the gates hot, going on an 8-0 opening run with five points from junior guard Jordan Mathews alone. Cal’s strong start was aided by the Cavaliers shooting 0-6 and surrendering three turnovers.
The game appeared to be heading in the Bears’ favor until the Virginia offense started clicking. The home team finally seemed to settle into the game, behind its now roaring home crowd, with the Cavaliers coming within a basket after two consecutive free throws by forward Jarred Reuter, which made the score 10-7 with 10 minutes to play. Reuter went on to lead Virginia in the first half by scoring seven points off the bench, including going 5-6 on free throws.
The Bears continued to have an effective presence on offense, however, maintaining the lead with the assistance of a three-pointer by Mathews and two jumpers by Brown, bringing the score back out to 17-9. Mathews went on to finish the game with 16 total points, going 4-8 on three-pointers.
Virginia edged its way back in the game before the close of the first half, aided by the Bears’ seven turnovers and multiple penalties, with the Cavaliers going for a whopping total of 10-12 on free throws on Cal’s 10 personal fouls in the first half, despite shooting 18 percent overall in the period.
Despite its deficiencies in protecting the ball and numerous mistakes, Cal’s 21 rebounds to Virginia’s 12 and the Bears’ ability to shoot 44 percent assisted Cal in going into the half up, 27-20.
In the second half, both teams came out on offense strong as ever, with the Bears finding their tempo once again. Dunks from both Brown and freshman forward Ivan Rabb led the squad to their biggest lead of the game, going up 43-32 more than six minutes into the half. Brown went on to finish the game with a team-leading 18 points.
Forward Anthony Gill, however, guided the Cavaliers’ effort in finding ways to score against the Cal defense whenever Virginia needed it most. Gil ended the game leading the Cavaliers with 17 points, including going 7-7 on free throws.
With Gil’s help, Virginia found itself on a 6-0 run that lasted for almost three minutes just before the halfway mark of the second half. While the Cavaliers’ offense finally began to click, the Bears found themselves struggling to have any offensive production. Cal scored just one field goal in the last 10 minutes of regulation, a jumper by junior guard Jabari Bird.
The game fully shifted in Virginia’s favors with Gil scoring a layup with just more than four minutes to play that tied the game for the first time. A dunk by guard Darius Thompson a little more than three minutes later gave Virginia its first lead of the night with a minute to play. Two free throws by Brown then allowed the Bears to send it to overtime, but his inability to hold onto the ball on the last play took away the Bears’ final opportunity to win the game in regulation, leaving it tied at 52.
In overtime, Cal found itself in control once again with Brown getting the first points coming off his turnover. Another point from Brown, three more from senior guard Tyrone Wallace and a tip in from Rabb, gave the Bears a 60-54 lead.
But the Cal defense allowed the most efficient offense in the country to climb back in and snatch the win off two consecutive three-pointers, with the winning shot coming from guard London Perrantes with just 12 seconds to play.
The Bears were outscored 28-16 starting with the scoring drought with 13 minutes in the second half until the end of overtime. Their inability to close out the game left questions about the future and inexperience of this team, while also leaving some optimism for the beginning of conference play.