HAR-PER. KAMP. HIP HIP. JORGE. If you're not getting chills, shame on you. The final homestand for two of the most beloved Bears in Cal basketball history started with an inauspicious 0-4 deficit.
Who else to break the lid off the basket than Harper with a trademark lefty hook? Moments later, Jorge chipped in with an elbow jumper and it was game on.
Five points from Crabbe with another hook from Harper, and it was an 11-6 Cal lead thanks to a 9-0 run. It was a contrast in styles - the Bears going with a hard-nosed man defense while the Ducks set themselves in a trapping match-up zone.
With the Cal defense forcing tough shots, it was crisp execution on offense that found Thurman for a dunk and another Harper layup. Slowly, the lead grew to 17-11 at the ten minute mark.
The Ducks tried to counter-punch by working it inside. But the Bears were tough in the passing lanes and worked the transition game to good effect. Smith asserted himself on both ends. He picked Oregon's waterbug reserve guard for a steal, had a nice driving layup, and hit a deep jumper. It looked like Cal was pulling away as they extended to 26-17.
But the breadcrumb gang just wouldn't go away easily. They went on a run of their own by leaning on their strengths; putbacks, deep shooting, and drawing fouls.
Cal fans everywhere drew a deep breath when Jorge, Kravish and Kamp picked up their second fouls with just under six minutes to play and the score cut to 26-24.
Cobbs tried to give the Bears a lift by exploiting Sims on defense for consecutive baskets. Oregon countered by working it inside to take advantage of Kamp and Kravish being forced to watch from the bench. What had looked like a game with a decisive Cal advantage turned into a physical slugfest. In an attempt to match up with the Ducks' athletic bigs, Monty called on Jeff Powers and then Bak Bak. Thurman briefly ignited the crowd with another thunderous dunk. But the Bears defense continued to give up open jumpers and putbacks inside.
At half, it was a 40-37 Duck advantage.
The 2nd half started with more teeth gnashing as Kravish and Kamp both picked up their third fouls within two minutes. The Oregon Duck bigs had little semblance of any real post moves. However, their strategy of throwing it haphazardly towards the rim and then crashing in to draw contact was ugly, but effective.
Strangely enough, bumps and shoves on Cal players went uncalled as the Bears weren't able to convert on a number of opportunities near the basket. Even when the Bears were able to scrap their way to points, getting stops on the other end was the more serious issue. It looked grim as the Ducks used a backdoor dunk and then an easy post-up to build their lead to 52-46. As we've seen so many times this year, it was the seniors that responsed. Harper tried to stem the tide with a tough finish and one inside. Jorge added a driving bucket, and then Harper hit again.
But every time the Bears cut into the lead, the Ducks responded with a jumper or worked it inside for easy baskets. Devoe Joseph was disgustingly unconscious; he even banked in an NBA-range three. Unlike the beginning of the game, the Cal defense was much less intense, perhaps handcuffed by the threat of quick whistles.
Despite their struggles, the Bears kept fighting. Cobbs chipped in with a variety of runners and pull-up jumpers. Then, he showed off his vision with a nifty look to Kravish. Somehow, the lead was cut down to three, 65-62 with seven minutes and change to play.
And then the Pac-12 refs struck again and called Jorge for his fourth on what looked to be standard defensive pressure. Disaster. Back to back Cal turnovers fed a quick 6-2 Duck run, and a seven point deficit. Monty rolled the dice and put Jorge back in.
Heartened, the Cal team came back to life. Kravish battled hard to get free throws off an offensive board. On the next possession, he hit a baseline jumper then ran back down to get a crucial block. Then Cobbs scored four quick points, the last basket off a trademark steal and dish by Jorge. It was a two point game with less than four to play!
Having fun? Check. Exciting game? Check. Refs need to put an end to all that? Sadly, yes. In what might be one of the worst calls in the history of basketball, Pac-12 ref Michael Greenstein decided to call a technical foul on Coach Mike Montgomery who was trying to call for a timeout. I hate complaining about the refs or pointing to the officiating as the reason a game was won or lost. But what a pathetic excuse of grandstanding, megalomania, and overcompensating for all manner of real and imagined deficiencies. Way to take the focus away from the players and squarely upon your myopic dementia. I hope Larry Scott listens to the home crowd and takes away that guy's whistle. Or shoves it somewhere. Whichever.
Even so, the Bears refused to quit. Finally, the defense stiffened and forced a series of empty possessions. Guess who was at the heart of the disruptive effort? Jorge turned one steal into a split at the free throw line, and another steal into a Cobbs layup. Two more free throws after being fouled on a rebound, and Cal retook the lead 76-75 with 1:33 to play.
It was somewhat fitting that Sims opted to duel Jorge down the stretch and countered with a jumper of his own that hit every part of the rim before falling through. 77-76 Ducks, 1:24.
Monty called a quick twenty to diagram a response, and Cal executed perfectly. Cobbs worked the high pick and roll to find Harper posting on the right block. Pump fake, contact, finish - AND ONE! Now it was 79-77, Bears, 57 ticks left. Oregon opted for a timeout and quick shot...missed!
Jorge grabbed the board in traffic and Monty called another timeout to orchestrate the final moments. The Ducks came out trapping and nearly deflected the ball. Instead, Cobbs broke the press and quickly broke away for a layup and a four point edge. Oregon promptly turned it over and were forced to foul Harper Kamp. Two more free throws and it was looking good up six and 30 seconds to go.
Just to make us sweat a little, the irritatingly en fuego Devoe Joseph hit two more contested threes, one of them closer to half court.
The free throw and foul game ensued, but our Bears were just clutch enough. Harper was ice for two more. Kravish split a pair. And two desperation heaves clanked off.
Strike up the band and let Palms of Victory echo through the Haas. The Bears had won, 86-83.
It wasn't a pretty win. It definitely wasn't an easy one. But it says a lot for the collection heart of this team that they could overcome a variety of struggles to pull this one out.
Time to go get one back from the Beavers on Senior Night.
HIP HIP. JORGE!