Crabbe set the tone early and started off by aggressively taking it to the hole twice for consecutive baskets. UW countered by trying to work their size advantage inside. After the two teams exchanged blows early, it was tied at 6.
Then Jorge asserted himself. He completed an old-fashioned 3-point play. Then pushed the ball in transition and fed Thurman for an alley-oop dunk. Moments later, he used clever anticipation to draw an offensive foul on uber-frosh Tony Wroten. Another drive and dish to Thurman pushed the Cal lead to five at 13-8.
UW broke the Cal run with a feed inside to one of Shawn Kemp's three dozen known children. But another nifty feed from Jorge to Thurman led to a down the lane tomahawk attempt that pushed the lead to 5 again after two made free throws.
The next few minutes were all about the Bear defense as they forced contested jumpers and picked off cross-court passes. Dribble penetration broke down the Huskies' D once again and Thurman hit his 8th straight point with a nifty baseline jumper to push the lead to 7.
Although UW tried to answer by feeding it to N'Diaye, the Bears continued to push it and find themselves good shots. Four more straight points from Cobb made it 22-12 Cal with 8:41 to play as part of a 16-4 run.
But just as it looked like Cal might blow this one open, the Huskies picked things up defensively and forced back to back Cal turnovers. On the other end, they stopped settling for jumpers, went back to pounding it inside in the post or off the dribble, and sent guys in waves to the offensive glass.
Then Crabbe stemmed the tide with an assassin's three and the Bears regrouped. They went back to playing tough D and team rebounding. When another (unstoppable, baby!) Thurman jumper swished home from the baseline, the scoreboard read 31-21 Cal at the 2:47 mark.
UW countered with a low-percentage 3 from Gaddy to draw within 8. So naturally, the Bears called Robert Thurman's number once again to break his previous career high in style on a thunderous dunk off a penetrate and dish by Cobbs.
I'm not sure that many of us would have anticipated a 35-25 Cal lead at half. And I'm pretty darn positive that Paul the Psychic Octopus would have been put on the short-order to fried calamari if he had predicted 12 points from Robert Thurman.
The Bears were simply the better team on both ends. Cal was more intense on defense and used precise execution on offense to carve up the Huskies' zone. Amazingly, the Bears were most effective beating UW at their own game in transition. If not for N'Diaye's huge presence on the boards and in the post, this very well could have been a blow-out.
You knew UW would keep trying to pound it inside. Could the Bears hold up against the inevitable run?
The second half started in promising fashion with Kamp taking it inside to draw two free throws. But consecutive and-one plays off drive and dish action by the Huskies quickly cut the lead back to 7.
Undaunted, the Bears set their defense and forced two more empty possessions. Cobbs drove the lane and found Kravish for two made foul shots. Then Cobbs called his own number and hit to push it to 41-30 with 16 and change to play.
Lorenzo Romar tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout. Instead, Crabbe stole the ball and threw it ahead to Jorge for a breakaway layup. Both teams picked up the pace and started exchanging baskets. Cobbs found Thurman for another dunk, then hit an acrobatic, twisting layup of his own. But Terrence Ross and Abdul Gaddy stepped up for UW to rattle off ten points for UW. The lead was cut to five, 47-42, with 13 minutes to play.
Of course, it was Jorge who stopped the Huskies' run with a clutch driving layup. After one of Monty's signature out of bounds plays, Crabbe found himself wide open and hit to push the lead back to nine, 51-42.
Once again, UW counterpunched using a putback from N'diaye and a Wroten three to cut it back to six. Tthe Bears responded by taking a page from the Huskies' playbook and used two offensive boards including a Beast Mode effort from Robert Thurman to steal two extra possessions. Harper Kamp took advantage of the loose ball with a nifty tip to Thurman for another score.
But the Huskies wouldn't go away and fed off the crowd's energy to force turnovers, push the tempo, and cut the lead to four, 55-51, with 7:44 to play.
The unwashed masses howled as if their jeers could buy their team an extra call. Undaunted, the Bears defense stiffened and drew three offensive fouls, including a technical on Coach Lorenzo Romar. After some clutch free throws by Cobbs and Kravish, the lead was back to eight, 59-51.
You could feel the intensity pick up to playoff intensity as Ross and Crabbe exchanged difficult jumpers. Gaddy elevated over Smith for a floater and was quickly countered as Kamp hit a baby hook off a spin move on the other end.
A Wroten three-point play cut the lead to five, 63-58, only to be coolly answered by a ruthless Cobbs triple.
But then things got interesting. Ross hit a three, the Bears turned it over, and a transition bucket made it a one possession game, 63-60 with just 51.4 to play.
Who would step up? What would Monty call? When in doubt, go to your battle-tested seniors. Cobbs drove the lane and found Harper Kamp cutting down the baseline to draw a foul at the rim.
Game on the line? No problem. Harper was straight up money and drained them both to make it a two-possession game.
Just to make us all sweat, UW missed a 3, grabbed the board, and then Ross hit from deep yet again to make it 68-66 with 10 seconds to play. The Bears worked it in to their best free throw shooter, Cobbs...and he proceeded to split the free throws. The door was still slightly ajar for UW, down three, with 8.2 left.
Monty called his last timeout. Would he foul or play straight up? No fouls. Oh dear. The Huskies got a wide open shot to Darnell Gant who had previously gone 0-8 for the game. Statistics and juju dictated that he'd hit.
But sometimes, karma trumps juju. He clanked. And the Bears had won, 69-66.
Hats off to Monty and the guys for a stellar effort. The term "total team effort" gets tossed about and overused as often as "thrown under the bus."
But make no mistake, every Bear who saw time contributed to this one.
Cobbs controlled everything from the point and broke down their D time and time again.
Jorge frustrated their guards and exploited the Huskies in transition.
Crabbe showed some moxie off the dribble and was relentless on the glass.
Harper battled larger players all game long and came up big in crunch time.
Smith shook off rust to spell the starters, and Kravish continued to play well beyond his years.
As for Robert Thurman - all he did was hold his own and out-play more heralded recruits en route to a career high.
Let the dogs bark all they want. Until the next time, Scoreboard B-.