Justin Cobbs hit a go-ahead 3-point shot with 15.4 seconds left, but the Bears couldn’t close out a win at SMU in their NIT quarterfinal game.
Nic Moore answered with a 3-pointer of his own with six seconds left and the Mustangs claimed a 67-65 win and a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.
The Bears’ season ends at 21-14.
Cal trailed by as many as seven points early in the second half, but rallied behind a 20-point performance from freshman Jabari Bird. Cobbs seemed to delivered his third game-winning shot in two years before Moore came through for the Mustangs (26-9).
Cobbs had 18 points and seven assists in his final game for Cal. The senior point guard moved into second place on Cal’s career assists list with 531, passing Jerome Randle (524). He trails only Keith Smith, who had 546 in four seasons 1987 through ’90.
With 204 assists this season, Cobbs became just the second Cal player besides Jason Kidd (who did it twice) to top 200 assists. (Name the other and win a cookie!)
He also wound up 11th on the Bears’ all-time scoring list with 1,469 career points.
For those who wonder if the NIT is a waste of time, consider what these three games likely mean to Bird. He scored 50 points in the NIT, 39 the past two games, to enter the offseason feeling confident after a rough, up-and-down rookie campaign.
Bird scored 15 second-half points against SMU, finishing the game 8 for 13 from the field, 3 for 6 from beyond the arc. Over the past two games, he was 15 for 21 from the field.
The five-star recruit out of Salesian-Richmond began the year well, averaging 11.3 points over the first 12 games. Then he suffered an ankle sprain that sidelined him four games, and he struggled to regain his rhythm and confidence.
Over the next 16 games, Bird averaged just 4.4 points.
But his offensive performances against Arkansas on Monday and SMU were two of his best of the season.
David Kravish, who also returns next season, had 14 points and eight rebounds. But with senior Richard Solomon out for the third straight game with a concussion, the Bears were hammered 35-22 on the boards. SMU actually had more offensive rebounds (17) than Cal had defensive rebounds (16).
Junior guard Ricky Kreklow, who broke his nose in the Arkansas game, played while wearing a protective mask but shot 0 for 4 and scored just two points.
Markus Kennedy had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead coach Larry Brown’s Mustangs.
The answer: Prenctice McGruder, who had 205 assists in 1996-97.