DALLAS, TX -- That was the bottom line as the Bears' valiant effort fell short in a 67-65 NIT quarterfinal loss to the Mustangs Wednesday night at sold-out Moody Coliseum.
So now it will be SMU, not Cal, moving on to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Justin Cobbs, playing as if he didn't want his college career to end, made a 3-point shot with 15.4 seconds remaining to give the Bears a 65-64 lead.
Larry Brown, the Mustangs' Hall of Fame coach, called a timeout.
The Bears' Mike Montgomery was coaching too during the timeout, and he switched his team from a game-long 2-3 zone to man to man defense.†
SMU worked the ball into the right corner, where 5-foot-9 Nic Moore was open because Cal's Tyrone Wallace had fallen.
Moore drilled in a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left for the game's seventh lead change.
It turned out to be the last lead change. Instead of calling time out, the Bears passed the ball in to Cobbs, who dribbled across mid-court and attempted another 3-pointer from 30 feet out with one second left. The ball bounced off the rim, and the final horn sounded.
Montgomery explained the late-game thinking.
"I felt like we could switch everything," he said about going to the man defense. "We did not want to give up a shot in the zone. If we stayed in a zone, they would know where we were. What happened was (our guy) fell down.
The coach said he considered calling a timeout to set up a final shot at the other end. "In terms of a situation like that, you want to grab it and throw it quickly. They're not going to be set.
"We didn't grab it quickly enough, but we actually got a decent shot."
Cobbs said, "It felt good actually. It just didn't go down. I just wanted to make a play. We were down. I knew (Moore) was little. I just thought I could get it over him."
The Bears couldn't do much inside against SMU's biggest players, so they went outside with some success.
"We shoot 51 percent against a team that's fourth in the country in field goal defense," Montgomery said.
Cobbs finished with 18 points, 11 in the first half.
In the second half, it was freshman Jabari Bird's turn. He scored just five in the first half, but poured in 15 after halftime for a game-high 20. Including two second-half treys.
One bounced high off the rim, then fell in. Bird said, "After seeing that one go in, I knew it would give the team a little boost.
The other came from beyond the free throw circle while he was leaning to his left. "I definitely practice those type of shots, just for the fun of it. People ask me why I'm doing that."
That shot put the Bears, who had trailed by as many as seven points, back in the lead 56-53.
Cal played all three NIT games without 6-10 Richard Solomon, the best rebounder in the Pac-12, because of a concussion.
"That made a big difference," Bird said. "Richard averages a double double, and he brings energy. We had to go small ball."
Montgomery said, "I knew we would have a hard time on the glass. They got 16 second-chance points. That was the difference to me."
SMU out-rebounded the Bears 35-22 overall, but had an even bigger advantage (17-6) on the offensive boards. In fact, the Mustangs got more rebounds of their shots than did Cal, which had 16 defensive rebounds. The Bears had no -- zero -- second-chance points in the game.†
Interestingly, Cal didn't need second-chance points early in the game. The Bears scored the first four points, and extended their lead to 9-2 and later to nine points at 24-15. They made 10 of their first 16 attempts (63 percent), including two of four 3s.
From that point, SMU's bench took over in a 10-0 run that gave the home team its first lead, 25-24. Freshman Keith Frazier hit two 3-pointers, and 6-10 Cannen Cunningham brought quality minutes while providing a breather for 6-9 Markus Kennedy, who led the Mustangs with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
During the last seven minutes of the first half, the Bears were just 2-for-11 and made only one of six 3-pointers.
After trailing 32-29 at halftime and 38-31 early in the second half, Cal came back behind Bird and Cobbs.
They did that without 3-point shooter Ricky Kreklow. His nose was broken during Monday night's win over Arkansas, so he came out wearing a mask. Kreklow missed all four of his 3-point attempts, all before he removed the mask at halftime.
"He told me, 'I can't see the ball to dribble,'" Montgomery said. "It was a gutsy move. He got pounded pretty good less than 48 hours ago."
Even SMU's Brown was impressed.
"If I was the coach, I'd be proud of their team. They lose their starting center, and they've got another starter with a broken nose. They played about as perfect a game as you could play."
The Bears' season ended 21-14. They'll lose seniors Cobbs, Solomon and Jeff Powers.
Bird said, "We have a great future. We have a young nucleus."
- David Kravish had 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block. In the first half, he led the Bears with seven rebounds and two steals, and added two assists.
- The Mustangs had advantages in points in the paint (30-20) and bench points (15-6).
- SMU (26-9) plays in the American Athletic Conference, which like the Pac-12 has three teams in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen.
- The renovated Moody Coliseum has become one of the places to be in the Metroplex. President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, sat at court side. At halftime, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo moved down to say hello to the Bushes.