Nelson Tip Saves UCLA From Late Cal Surge

Photo: Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez scored 15 points in the Bears' loss last night to UCLA. He also had six assists as Cal nearly came back from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes.
Chris McDermut/File
Junior guard Jorge Gutierrez scored 15 points in the Bears' loss last night to UCLA. He also had six assists as Cal nearly came back from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes.

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LOS ANGELES - Reeves Nelson shoots, spins, steals and barges. He dunks, drives and deliberately forces contact.

Most importantly, Reeves Nelson hustles; and if not for that, the Cal men's basketball team could have stolen a game away from UCLA on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.

In what looked like an easy UCLA victory late in the second half, the Cal men's basketball game went on a stunning 25-11 run in the last 3:46 to tie the game, capped by an Allen Crabbe 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining.

But Nelson, who hounded the Bears the entire night, sprinted to tip in a Tyler Honeycutt miss with 2.2 seconds remaining and give UCLA an 86-84 victory.

Nelson, who led the Bruins with 24 points and 10 rebounds, gave Cal a litany of problems the entire night with his physical and active play on both sides of the ball.

Aside from his efficient scoring and brutish rebounding display, Nelson recorded two steals, forced several other turnovers, and even commandeered the fast break on two different occasions.

"He has a good motor," forward Harper Kamp said. "When he catches, you know he's going to the rim, but it's still hard to stop him at times. He's really physical and he works really well with their offense."

Kamp led all Cal scorers with 21 points, including 15 in the first half, but freshman Crabbe's late scoring surge was the most noteworthy performance of the night.

Crabbe was stymied by the Bruins' Malcolm Lee the entire night and did not score his first field goal of the game until 6:34 remaining in the second half. The Los Angeles freshman, returning home for the first time as a Cal player, then exploded, scoring 13 of his 17 points with under 3:30 left in the contest.

His 36 minutes of stagnation became moot when he coolly drilled the game tying three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining. Crabbe also led the Bears with seven rebounds.

"It felt good. When it went in, I thought we were going to overtime," Crabbe said.

That 3-pointer was the only one Cal hit all night. Conversely, UCLA tied its season high with 10 threes.

The strong shooting came as a surprise to coach Mike Montgomery, as the Bruins only made eight of 34 attempts over the last three games. By playing a zone defense for the majority of the game, the Bears clearly wanted UCLA to be shooting a lot from the outside.

"The zone forces (the three-pointers)," Montgomery said. "I didn't expect them to shoot it that well and they shot them pretty well. We could have bounced out of it earlier and gone to man, but we probably would have been in foul trouble."

Cal managed well in the paint for most of the game, receiving quality performances from Kamp, Markhuri Sanders-Frison and Richard Solomon.

Though the Bears were out-rebounded 35-26, Cal was aided by the absence of UCLA's monstrous freshman Joshua Smith, who only played six minutes after injuring his neck. Sanders-Frison bowled over Smith while trying to finish a hook shot, and Smith had to be helped from the floor.


Gabriel Baumgaertner covers men's hoops. Contact him at [email protected]

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