Bears Overcome Bruins in Overtime Thriller

Photo: Allen Crabbe played his first game on Sunday since suffering a mild concussion against Washington. The freshman guard chipped in eight points and grabbed seven boards.
Simone Anne Lang/Staff
Allen Crabbe played his first game on Sunday since suffering a mild concussion against Washington. The freshman guard chipped in eight points and grabbed seven boards.

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As it fell into the net at the regulation buzzer, Malcolm Lee's game-tying 3-pointer carried the ghosts of LaMont "Mo Mo" Jones, Reeves Nelson, Michael Roll and others.

This story had been written before.

Losers of four straight contests, and seemingly permanent heartbreak victims at the hands of the UCLA, the Bears nearly let another game slip through their hands on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.

"I was just thinking, 'Oh, man, we've been here before,'" Cal's Brandon Smith said.

Five minutes later, he helped tear up the script.

The sophomore point guard continued his surprising streak of late-game heroics by sinking the biggest shot of his career -- a right-corner 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in overtime to help clinch a thrilling 76-72 victory over the Bruins.

It marked Cal's first home win over Ben Howland's club since 2004.

"When (Jorge Gutierrez) passed it to me, it wasn't right in my shot pocket and there was a guy coming out," said Smith, who finished with eight points, six rebounds and three assists. "I thought, 'I am still going to stick this."

Just as key was the player who would ultimately assist Smith's clutch shot. One game removed from a 2-for-13 shooting night, Gutierrez erupted for a career-high 34 -- including his team's first six in overtime. He decimated the Bruins all evening long with a flurry of hard-nosed drives to the basket.

But with time winding down in the extra period and Cal up, 71-70, Gutierrez found himself trapped by UCLA defenders and had no choice but to kick it out.

Smith did the rest.

"I made sure I was ready to knock it down," said Smith.

The game's final minutes were filled with much less certainly for Cal fans, who had already seen the Bears buckle two weeks earlier against Arizona.

With 6.6 seconds remaining in regulation and Cal (14-13, 7-8 in the Pac-10) clinging to a 60-57 edge, it must have felt like deja vu when the Bears missed two chances to put the Bruins on the free throw line.

Markhuri Sanders-Frison merely knocked the ball away from Reeves Nelson with 3.3 seconds left.

And off the ensuing inbound, Lee faded away and sunk the game-tying jumper from the top of the key.

"The coaches were saying, lets foul," Bears coach Mike Montgomery said. "Actually, (Sanders-Frison) tried to foul (Nelson), they didn't call it ... It was there, but we just fell asleep at the wheel."

The Bears were anything but asleep early. They blitzed UCLA (19-8, 10-4) from the start, forcing 10 turnovers and never trailing en route to a 29-18 halftime lead. The Bruins shot just 7-of-24 from the field in the first 20 minutes, and their imposing frontcourt of Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith combined for just four points. Lee finished with 19 on the night, but was limited to six points on 2-of-7 shooting at the break.

Yet by the 7:15 mark of the second half, UCLA had stormed back to take their first lead, 48-47. Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt overcame a five-point opening frame to finish with 14, drilling three big shots from beyond the arc after intermission.

As the game tightened up, Smith had a inkling of events to come.

"There was just a determination that we were going to win this game," Smith said. "I just had one of those gut feelings that,'You know what, I know that tonight was gonna come down to a game-winning shot.'"


Ed Yevelev covers men's basketball. Contact him at [email protected]

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