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FINAL SCORE: Colorado 59, Cal 56. Cobbs’ 3-point try at the buzzer missed and the Bears (19-13) likely will be denied their third straight NCAA tournament bid. Cobbs scored 21 points and Wallace had 13. The two combined to score Cal’s final 22 points. Solomon had 16 rebounds.
Usual post-game theme: Team didn’t play hard enough in the first half, then made a few critical mistakes at the finish after rallying. No Cal player or coach was willing to predict what might come Sunday, but Cobbs’ red, tear-filled eyes on the interview podium said it all.
6:30 2nd H: A steal and emphatic breakaway dunk by Cobbs and Cal trails just 49-48.
7:33 2nd H: Bears making a fierce push. Wallace has eight second-half points and his driving layup has the Bears within 49-46. Cal getting defensive stops and transition opportunities that weren’t there early in the game. They won’t crack this defense solely in the halfcourt.
15:57 2nd H: Kreklow hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the half, pulling Cal within 31-28 in the first 43 seconds. CU’s lead is now 37-32.
HALFTIME: Colorado 31, Cal 22. The Bears won the final 3 1/2 minutes of the half, 6-2, thanks to nice playmaking by freshman PG Sam Singer, who had a pair of assists. Cobbs moved off the ball in an attempt to give him more room to score. But the Bears have a huge climb ahead of them. Colorado has control and Cal is going to have to improve its efficiency at both ends to have any chance. Cal shot 2 for 12 from the 3-point arc in the half and attempted only one FT.
1:19 1st H: Kravish, with two more baskets and eight points, doing his best to keep the Bears in it. CU leads 31-22.
3:27 1st H: Down 29-18, Cal just needs to maintain some level of contact and hope things change in the second half. Right now, the Bears are getting badly outplayed. Solomon just scored (and will shot one FT), but prior to that Cal went six possessions without a point. Colorado’s offense is carving up the Bears. During one recent stretch of nine possessions, the Buffs scored on eight of them, pushing the lead out to 26-16.
7:59 1st H: A 3-pointer by Wallace gets Cal within 21-13. Cobbs just was fouled — in the neck — by Jaron Hopkins. The Bears are struggling to get any penetration and Colorado knows they aren’t a good enough perimeter shooting team to consistently hurt them there.
9:07 1st H: Colorado leads 21-10 and Monty calls timeout. The Bears’ NCAA bid is slipping away quickly. Cal is shooting 5 for 16 and had two attempts on its most recent possession blocked.
11:33 1st H: Colorado leads 16-10. The Buffs have started to find the range from the perimeter, scoring their past five FGs from the outside, including 3-pointers by Xavier Johnson and Xavier Talton. Cal is 0 for 4 from the 3-pt line so far. Montgomery has gone with a four-guard lineup, trying to get more scoring punch in the lineup. Cobbs will come out after the timeout, the lineup will including Kreklow, Wallace, Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews and Solomon.
15:38 1st H: Pretty tentative play from both teams to start. Score is even at 4-4. Cal is shooting 2 for 6 (both by Kravish) with 2 TOs after eight possessions. CU is 2 for 6 with 1 TO after seven possessions.
STARTING LINEUPS: Cal will go with its usual group, starting Justin Cobbs, Tyrone Wallace, Ricky Kreklow, David Kravish and Richard Solomon. CU will start Askia Booker, Wesley Gordon, Xavier Johnson, Xavier Talton and Josh Scott. (Buffs got to be the only team in the nation starting two guys named Xavier).
WELCOME TO VEGAS: I’m here at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Cal’s quarterfinal game in the Pac-12 tournament against Colorado.
The teams met just five days ago, in the regular-season finale, with the Bears posting a 66-65 overtime win that locked up the No. 4 seed here.
The Bears (19-12) almost certainly need to beat the Buffaloes (22-10) again to earn their way into the NCAA tournament.
The Bears began the day at No. 54 in the latest RealTimeRPI rankings, which suggests they have work to do. Joe Lunardi, bracketologist for ESPN, continues to list Cal atop his “first teams out,” meaning he doesn’t think the Bears are far from a bid.
There was some good news on the “bubble” elsewhere. Georgetown lost Wednesday, knocking it from contention. Providence ousted St. John’s, which frees up another potential spot.
But Florida State beat Maryland to stay alive, and Illinois won its 20th game, at the expense of Indiana, which could help lift the Illini into the conversation as the week progress.