Cal needs to win one more game — on the road and possibly without one or even two starters — to earn a trip to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the NIT.
The Bears (21-13) is in Dallas to face SMU (25-9) on Wednesday night. The winner advances to New York City for the semifinals and finals on April 1 & 3.
But this won’t be easy. After home victories over outmanned Utah Valley and an Arkansas team that couldn’t make a basket for most of the first half, the Bears play at SMU, where the Mustangs are 17-1 this season.
Cal also could be shorthanded. Starting forward Richard Solomon, the Pac-12’s top rebounder, missed the first two NIT games after sustaining a concussion at home. No other details have been provided. Solomon is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.
Starting guard Ricky Kreklow had his nose bloodied and broken in the second half of Monday’s 75-64 win over Arkansas. He is expected to wear a protective mask and try to play against SMU.
The Mustangs, led by coaching legend Larry Brown, beat UC Irvine and LSU in their first two NIT games.
The Bears (21-13) led by as many as 24 points and move on to the quarterfinals of the NIT after a 75-64 win over Arkansas at Haas Pavilion on Monday night.
Arkansas (22-12) got with eight points late, but no closer.
The Bears play Wednesday at No. 1 seed SMU, with the winner earning a trip to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Freshman Jabari Bird shot 7 for 8 and scored 19 points to go with eight rebounds. Bird, who had his most prolific scoring game since going for 24 against Oakland on Nov. 15, has totaled 30 points on 11-for-16 shooting the past two games.
Tyrone Wallace scored 16 points and David Kravish had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Senior Justin Cobbs, playing his final game at Haas, had nine points, six assists and five rebounds. Cobbs moves into third on Cal’s career assist list with 524, passing Kevin Johnson.
The Bears played without senior forward Richard Solomon, who sat out a second straight game with a concussion. Solomon apparently sustained the concussion at home, although no details have been provided.
Cal (20-13) takes its second shot this season at Arkansas (22-11) in a second-round NIT game at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff on Monday night is 8 p.m.
The game will be televised by ESPN2 (immediately following the Cal women vs. Baylor in the NCAA tournament).
The second-seeded Bears will play Wednesday in the NIT quarterfinals against the winner of Monday’s game between No. 1 SMU (24-9) and No. 5 LSU (20-13). Cal will travel if the opponent is SMU but would be at home against LSU.
Against Arkansas, the Bears once more figure to be without senior forward Richard Solomon (11.0 ppg, 10.2 rpg), who sat out the Bears’ 77-64 win last Wednesday due to a concussion.
Cal beat the Razorbacks 85-77 at the Maui Invitational back on Nov. 25 in a game where Solomon suffered a scratched eye. He missed the final two games in Maui while recovering.
Senior point guard Justin Cobbs (15.7 ppg, 5.8 apg) has 518 career assists to rank fourth on Cal’s all-time list. He needs four to pass Kevin Johnson (1984-87) and seven to go by Jerome Randle (2007-10) and into second place on the career chart.
Click here to read our game story.
Senior forward Richard Solomon, the Pac-12’s leading rebounder, sat out with a concussion, but Cal won its NIT opener, beating Utah Valley 77-64 in front of 1,862 fans at Haas Pavilion.
The second-seeded Bears (20-13) advance to a second-round game Monday against No. 3 seed Arkansas. Tipoff is 8 p.m. at Haas. Cal beat the Razorbacks 85-77 in the Maui Invitational back on Nov. 25.
Coach Mike Montgomery said he hopes Solomon can play Monday.
David Kravish had 14 points, 10 rebounds and equaled his career high with five blocked shots.
Justin Cobbs had 13 points and seven assists and freshman Jabari Bird, inserted into the starting lineup, responded with 11 points.
Freshman Jordan Mathews scored 13 off the bench and senior Jeff Powers had 10 points.
Holton Hunsaker scored 22 points for the Wolverines (20-12), regular-season champions of the Western Athletic Conference.
A couple of words on the Utah Valley Wolverines (20-11), who visit Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night for an NIT opener against the No. 2 seeded Golden Bears (19-13). Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.
The team won the WAC regular-season title with a 13-3 record, then lost 74-69 to Idaho in the league tournament. As a result, according to NIT rules, the Wolverines were given an automatic bid to the NIT.
Utah Valley played two significant non-conference opponents, losing 93-40 at Oklahoma State and 69-54 at Oregon. The Wolverines also defeated two non-Division I foes.
The team is led by 6-foot senior PG Holton Hunsaker, the son of coach Dick Hunsaker, who averages 14.0 ppg and 4.2 apg. Ben Aird, a 6-9 senior center, averages 11.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg.
The Wolverines had an NCAA RPI rating of No. 144 this week. Cal is at No. 63.
NOTE: I am traveling to St. Louis today to cover the NCAA tournament and will not be at Haas tonight. We will have a writer at the game and I will link our story to BearTalk late tonight.
This isn’t where Justin Cobbs wanted to be.
“Nobody wants to play in the NIT,” the Cal point guard said a couple weeks ago as the Golden Bears were pursuing an NCAA tournament bid.
But Cobbs and the Bears (19-13) find themselves in college basketball’s consolation tournament Wednesday night, taking on Utah Valley (21-11), regular-season champs of the Western Athletic Conference. Tipoff at Haas Pavilion is 7:30 p.m.
If Cobbs isn’t entirely satisfied by the final chapter of his senior season, he no longer harbors the doubts about his own game that followed him to Berkeley as a transfer from Minnesota in the fall of 2010.
“I just didn’t know if I was good enough,” said Cobbs, who averaged 2.1 points as a freshman with the Golden Gophers before jumping to Cal. “I put expectations on myself to at least go in and contribute, at least help the team in some way. I went in and really didn’t do anything.”
Cobbs has delivered for Cal, even while struggling at times to find a balance between his dual roles as scorer and floor leader.
Click here to read the rest of my story.
Cal announced that (presuming a victory Wednesday) it would host a second-round game against Arkansas (a 91-71 first-round winner over Indiana State) either Sunday or Monday.
Here are semifinal results Friday from the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas:
UCLA 84, STANFORD 59: This one was never close. The second-seeded Bruins (25-8) had leads of 9-2, 25-4 and 41-21 in the first half on the way to clinching a spot in Saturday’s title game. Kyle Anderson had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Norman Powell scored 22 points and Travis Wear made all eight of his shots to score 16.
Stanford (21-12), which essentially clinched its NCAA tournament bid with a win over Arizona State the night before, never threatened the Bruins. Dwight Powell scored 16 points and Chasson Randle had 11.
ARIZONA 63, COLORADO 43: The top-seeded Wildcats (30-3) pulled away in the second half to advance to Saturday’s championship game. Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson included a SportsCenter-worthy alley-oop dunk among his 16 points. T.J. McConnell had 12 points and five assists and Aaron Gordon filled the stat line with nine points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals.
Askia Booker scored 12 points and Xavier Johnson 11 for the Buffaloes (23-11), who shot just 22.7 percent in the second half and 29.4 percent for the game.
Click here to read my game story.
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.
Click here for my game story.
FINAL SCORE: Cal 66, Colorado 65, OT: The Bears (19-12, 10-8) secure the No. 4 seed and first-round bye for next week’s Pac-12 tournament. The Bears will play Thursday at 2:36 p.m. at the MGM Grand, likely against Colorado. The Buffaloes earned the No. 5 seed and must beat No. 12 on Wednesday to get a rematch with Cal.
Justin Cobbs shot just 5 for 17, but made all eight of his FTs and led the Bears with 21 points. Solomon and Kravish each had 14 points and 12 rebounds. The Bears missed their final 10 shots and converted just 35 percent for the game, but blocked eight shots.
OVERTIME: We get 5 more minutes after the teams were even at 59-all. Cobbs picked up a loose ball with a couple seconds left, but his 50-foot heave missed.
* 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Haas Pavilion (Pac-12 Networks)
In their 31st game of the season, the Golden Bears (18-12, 9-8) will help determine whether they will play in the NCAA tournament two weeks from now.
“I’m going to be honest,” senior guard Justin Cobbs told me this week, “I don’t want to play in the NIT. That’s not my goal at all. I’ve put in so much work in these last 3-4 years. To go out in the NIT would really hurt.”
To avoid the NIT, Cal probably must beat Colorado (21-9, 10-7) in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Is this the absolute be-all, end-all game for the Bears? No.
Is there recourse if they lose to the Buffaloes? Yeah, they could win next week’s Pac-12 tournament and earn the league’s automatic berth.
Short of that? Almost certainly the NIT.