Justin Cobbs drove left off of a ball-screen, getting Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski to switch onto him before hitting a step-back 15-footer with 0.9 seconds left on the clock to give the Bears a win they so-desperately needed over the previously-undefeated, No. 1 Wildcats, 60-58.
Cobbs finished with 19 points and seven assists for the Bears, who entered the game having lost three in a row following a 5-0 start to Pac-12 play. That included an embarrassing loss at USC and an overtime loss to Arizona State at home on Thursday night.
The importance of this win goes well beyond Cal simply moving up the Pac-12 standings, however. This is a team that was sitting on the wrong side of the bubble. Entering the day, Cal’s resume included zero wins over probably tournament teams unless you think Oregon, who is sitting at 3-6 in the Pac-12 as of today, will be able to turn things around.
If you’re looking to improve an NCAA tournament resume, there isn’t a much better way to do it than beating the No. 1 team in the country.
Here’s the other part of it: Cal is a dangerous basketball team.
The Bears are trending towards sneaking into the tournament as a 12 seed, assuming they can find a way to consistently beat the teams they are supposed to beat, but this is a team with the talent to make the Sweet 16. Cobbs headlines a really talented perimeter attack that includes a trio of big, athletic scorers — Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews and Ty Wallace. Throw in Richard Solomon and David Kravish, and you’re looking at a team that can matchup with anyone from a talent perspective.
But the Bears have no depth, especially in their front court. And Bird, Mathews and Wallace all have proven that the only thing they can do on a consistent basis is to play inconsistently.
Cal may only play three more tournament teams the rest of the season: UCLA and Colorado at home and Arizona on the road. This was the best chance that the Bears were going to get at earning a marquee win, and they capitalized.
Can they now avoid another costly loss?