Cal Bears Upset Attempt Foiled by Late Virginia Comeback

Dec 17, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts during the game against the Cal Poly Mustangs in the second period at Haas Pavilion. Cal won 81-55. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin reacts during the game against the Cal Poly Mustangs in the second period at Haas Pavilion. Cal won 81-55. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second straight year, the Cal Bears were minutes away from an upset over the Virginia Cavaliers, and for the second straight year, they fell short.

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With a school record under their belts, the Cal Bears were back at it again on Wednesday night. Riding a 27-game winning streak at home, the Bears welcomed the Virginia Cavaliers to Haas Pavilion for their toughest test of the season to this point.

Cal was looking for revenge against Virginia after a disheartening loss in Charlottesville last season. The Bears held a late lead against the then-fifth-ranked Cavaliers, but couldn’t hold on in the final minutes before eventually falling in overtime by a point.

Virginia, now ranked 12th overall, represented the end of the non-conference season for the Golden Bears, who entered the game with a 9-2 record.

Cal entered the game as one of the best defensive teams in the nation, but Virginia guard London Perrantes had no issues early in the contest. The California-native was on fire to open up, hitting from mid-range and driving to the rim. He scored the Cavaliers’ first nine points of the game, propelling them to an early 9-5 lead.

The Bears’ offensive attack was much more spread out. Their first four buckets were scored by four different players, capped off by an athletic, spinning lay-in/hook shot by Roger Moute a Bidias to tie the game at nine.

After the early onslaught, the defenses settled in for both sides. Shots were hard to come by, but Jabari Bird was able to tie the game up by finishing an old-fashioned three-point play, and Ivan Rabb put the Bears in front for the first time with two free throws. With five minutes left in the first half, Cal led 17-15.

Virginia tied the game up just a little later, but after a couple minutes of back-and-forth defensive stops, the Bears jumped back ahead on a couple more Rabb freebies. Back-and-forth they went again, with Virginia tying it up and Cal jumping back ahead twice more before the half. Virginia was able to tie the game up with a free throw, and the buzzer sounded on a 22-22 deadlock after 20 minutes.

As advertised, the defenses were stout in the first half. Virginia shot just 32.3 percent, while Cal only hit on 30.4 percent of their shots. But immediately out of the break, Charlie Moore hit a three-pointer to put Cal back ahead. It was only the second three made by either team, coupled with a Bird make. Moore finished at the rim on the next possession to put Cal up by five.

After Cal went ahead by six, Virginia went on a nine-point run to jump back in front. Virginia kept the pressure on, extending their lead to nine. Cal wasn’t deterred by the long run.

The Bears kept moving the ball and finding good looks, going on an 8-0 run to bring Virginia’s lead down to one and getting the crowd at Haas back on their feet. As Virginia dealt with foul trouble, Rabb took advantage, hitting two free throws to put Cal back in front with just under 10 to play.

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Kyle Guy put a stop to a six-plus-minute scoring drought with a long two, giving Virginia the lead back. Bird answered on the other side, draining his third three of the game, but Guy responded himself with another two to tie the game.

Guy’s personal run continued as he drained a triple, putting Virginia up by three with about four-and-a-half to play. A Kingsley Okoroh lay-in made it a one-point game again.

A clock controversy ensued, stopping the game for a long while. The shot clock stopped during a Cal possession, and a foul on Bird was rescinded because the shot clock should have already expired. Virginia got the ball back and extended their lead to three on a jumper from Perrantes.

Sam Singer‘s and-one tied the game again, but Isaiah Wilkins responded with his own three-point play to put Virginia back ahead by a trio of points. Down 52-49, Moore’s potential tying three bounced off the rim, and Virginia came back with a two on the other side. Bird drained a long three with 18.9 seconds to go, making it a two-point game.

Cal tried to play the foul game, but Guy made both attempts to make it a two-possession game. The Bears couldn’t answer on the other side, and that was it. Virginia came away with a 56-52 win, snapping Cal’s 27-game winning streak at home.

Guy was the difference maker for Virginia in the second half. He scored 14 of the team’s last 17 points, allowing Virginia to overcome a deficit and then put a little bit of space between the two teams. He finished with a game-high 17 points off the bench.

Bird led the way for Cal, coming up with 15 points. Singer was the only other Bear in double-figures was 10. Rabb scored nine points, but seven came from the free throw line. He attempted just four field goals. Rabb also pulled down 12 rebounds.

Next: Cal Sets Win Streak Record at Home

The road in front of Cal doesn’t get any easier as conference play opens. On December 30th, the Bears will welcome number 18 Arizona to town for the first game of Pac-12 play. Arizona is 11-2 in the early-going of the season. Last year, the two teams split their season series with each team winning at home.