The Cal Golden Bears got off to a blazing start, outscoring the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks 32-11 over the first 16 minutes, and hung on for a 75-64 win Monday night in the second round of the NIT at Haas Pavilion.
The second-seeded Golden Bears (21-13) advance to a quarterfinal matchup in Dallas with top-seeded SMU, which beat LSU Monday 80-67. It’s Cal’s first NIT quarterfinal appearance since 2000.
The Golden Bears had a 24-point lead midway through the second half before the No. 3-seeded Razorbacks (22-12) roared back into the game, cutting the lead to single digits in the final minute before running out of time.
Freshman Jabari Bird had 19 points—his first back-to-back double-digit scoring games since mid-February—to pace the Golden Bears, going 7-for-8 from the floor. Bird also had eight rebounds. Tyrone Wallace finished with 16 points and David Kravish went for 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Justin Cobbs scored only nine points but dished out six assists.
Turnovers helped Arkansas get back into the game—the Golden Bears coughed the ball up 16 times compared to just five by the Razorbacks.
But Arkansas was only 25-of-78 (32.1 percent) overall, 4-for-24 (16.7 percent) from distance and 10-for-13 (76.9 percent) from the free-throw stripe. Cal was 26-for-47 (55.3 percent), 6-for-14 (42.9 percent) and 17-for-21 (81 percent).
Cal had a slim 38-37 edge on the glass. It was the Golden Bears’ second victory of the season over the Razorbacks; Cal beat them 85-77 on Nov. 25 in the first round of the Maui Invitational.