Justin Cobbs saved the day again when nobody else did much on offense. - Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fun, but it's a win that keeps Cal on the right side of the bubble and in the thick of the Pac-12 title race. Mission accomplished.
It shouldn't have even been close. Cal's defense held a disjointed Oregon State offense to 34.5% from the field. Cal held a double digit about halfway into the first half and mostly maintained that lead for 15 minutes, missing multiple opportunities to really put the game away. And of couse those missed opportunities came thisclose to costing Cal in very painful fashion.
Ahmad Starks hit a couple of deep threes, Joe Burton hit a few shots, Devon Collier kept at it inside, and all of a sudden the Beavers even had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. But OSU had to advance the ball all the way down the court in 4 seconds, and Ahmad Starks was unable to find a decent look. His three was well short, and the Bears survived.
Ultimately, Justin Cobbs did just enough for Cal to hold on. He scored Cal's final five points with two huge jumpers, and his 18 points and 5 assists means he was roughly involved in half of the points Cal scored. But it was one of Allen Crabbe's season low six points that made an unexpected contribution to the margin of victory. Oregon State was assessed with a technical foul prior to the game for dunking during warm ups. Crabbe hit one of two free throws. Later, Craig Robinson was T'd for, presumably, arguing with the refs, and Cobbs made both freebies. Thanks for the three free points OSU!
Crabbe's six points were three points less than his previous season low, which not so coincidentally came during a 15 point loss to UW. It's a credit to Cal's defense (and OSU's iffy offense) that the Bears overcame such a poor performance from their conference player of the year contender. It's not that Crabbe was completely disengaged from the game - he took shots, he ran the floor, he moved the ball. But he seemed . . . out of sync. When Cal needed him to shoot, he deferred or missed his opening. When Cal needed to run their offense and milk a little clock, he threw up an iffy shot. And when he did get an open look, his missed.
To be fair, it wasn't just Crabbe who seemed off. Richard Solomon was mostly anonymous on offense and David Kravish didn't have his usual impact on the boards. Robert Thurman brought his usual energy but OSU's post players weren't a great matchup for him defensively and he fouled out after just 11 minutes on the floor. All in all, Devon Collier, Eric Moreland and Joe Burton won the battle inside, and if they had gotten more support from their guards the Beavers might have escaped with a Senior Day win.
Burton in particular, playing his final game in front of friends and family at home, brought a level of intensity and effort that Cal struggled to match. Sometimes that energy manifested itself in wild plays and ugly sequences, but it's yet another reminder for the Bears of the kind of effort they need to keep this streak going.
All in all, this was probably Cal's worst performance since they began their surge towards the top of the conference against the Beavers at Haas. That they won anyway either says something about their toughness, or more likely, something about how badly OSU has struggled in Pac-12 play.
This game could easily have been a comfortable win with better shooting. Crabbe, obviously, will not often go 1-6 from deep when he gets open looks. Tyrone Wallace got himself into the lane frequently, but is still struggling with his finishing. Nobody did much inside. In the end the Cobbs show was enough.
This win closes out Cal's road Pac-12 slate, with the Bears winning their final three to finish 5-4 away from Haas. They say you need to split on the road to have a shot at the title, and the Bears did. Next up are the mountain schools at home, where Cal will have a chance to absolve one of their worst performances of the year. If they do they'll have all but clinched a tourney spot.