LAS VEGAS – California had a hard time shaking an Oregon State team that had won five games all season. The Bears ended the regular season with five losses in six games, so there was no way they could afford to lose this.
Cal found a way to close out a harder-than-expected game and now gets a shot to move on to the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Jabari Bird scored 20 points and converted a key 3-point play with 54 seconds left, helping California grind out a 67-62 victory over Oregon State Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
“We knew it would be tough just finding a way to win, get the rust off us,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin. “Felt like we were playing with a 15-pound-weight vest on our backs. We found a way to get the win, and now we can move forward.”
Cal (20-11) labored for most of the game offensively and had a hard time containing Oregon State’s Stephen Thompson Jr. The fifth-seeded Bears pulled it out behind Bird and a strong second half by Ivan Rabb.
The 6-foot-11 forward had 12 points and 13 rebounds after scoring two on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half, helping the Bears earn a rematch against Utah in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
The Utes beat Cal by 30 on March 2, putting a dent in their NCAA Tournament hopes.
“It’s not added motivation, it’s a game in March that we need to win, so that’s enough motivation right there,” Bird said. “But, I mean, Utah’s a great team, and like I said before, we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Thompson had 25 points and hit 5 of 6 from 3-point range to keep Oregon State (5-27) in the game until late. The Beavers pulled within 59-57, but Bird was fouled on a layup and hit the free throw to put Cal up five.
The Beavers couldn’t come up with the key stops when they needed it and hurt themselves from the free-throw line, hitting 14 of 24.
“We missed some free throws when we were struggling to score in the end of the second half, and then a couple times we got off page defensively, gambled, and they made us pay with back-to-back 3s,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said. “They hit back-to-back 3s there, and we had a stretch where we missed six out of eight free throws. You know, it’s a two-possession game. You can’t let that happen.”
The Bears came into the game knowing they couldn’t afford a letdown against the 12th-seeded Beavers to maintain any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
Cal won the two regular-season meetings against Oregon State by a combined 41 points, but the Beavers were ready for the Bears in round three.
Oregon State opened the game by making three of its first four shots from 3-point range and hounded Cal defensively. The Beavers had an early 10-4 run to lead by eight and withstood a run by Cal to stay within 32-29 at halftime.
Oregon State continued to hang around, still within one after Cal forgot to guard Thompson on back-to-back 3-pointers midway through.
Even when the Bears tried to pull away, the Beavers stayed on their heels, keeping the game closer than expected.
“I feel like we’ve grown a lot, especially the way we ended tonight,” said Oregon State’s Kendal Manuel, who had 11 points. “We showed that we’re going to stick through everything together and no matter what is coming at us, someone else is going to step up and make that next play.”
USC 78, Washington 73: Chemezi Metu led all players with 24 points and nine rebounds to help the Trojans (24-8) rebound from a sluggish first half en route to a victory over the Huskies (9-22).
David Crisp paced Washington with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Noah Dickerson added 18 points and five rebounds, while Matisse Thybulle scored 14.
USC advances to play UCLA on Thursday.
Arizona State 98, Stanford 88 (OT): Obinna Oleka had 27 points and 13 rebounds, and the Sun Devils (15-17) dominated in overtime to beat the Cardinal (14-17) in the opening game of the Pac-12 Tournament.
Arizona State shot 56 percent and made 10 of 22 from 3-point range, yet couldn’t shake the Cardinal in regulation.
Stanford’s Michael Humphrey hit a jumper with 3.3 seconds left to send the game into overtime tied at 81-all.
Once overtime started, the Sun Devils pulled away to win in the Pac-12 Tournament for the third time in the past 16 seasons.
Arizona State moves on to play No. 5 Oregon in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Reid Travis led Stanford with 23 points and Humphrey finished with 18.
Tra Holder had 21 points and Torian Graham 17 for the Sun Devils.
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