BERKELEY, Calif --- It's Groundhog Day week, but rabbits seem to be the rodent of preference for the Calfornia Golden Bears. They pulled yet a third consecutive three-point bunny from their bonnets Saturday with a 64-62 victory over UCLA to complete a home sweep of the LA schools and snap a three-game losing streak to the Bruins
Unlikely hero de jour: Dwight Tarwater, (5 pts, 2 boards).
First, let's set the scene: Cal, which lead by 10 in the first half, trailed late, 62-58 with 1:30 to play, after the Bears failed to get off a shot on a steal and fast break, then surrendered a floater to Norman Powell (13 pts., 6 boards). Jabari Bird then hit his second consecutive three-ball (5 of Cal's last six buckets were from behind the arc) to draw within 1 at 62-61.
David Kravish was called for a very questionable 4th foul at 5:20, and was playing aggresively nonetheless. At 0:37, Kevon Looney (10 pts., 11 boards) grabbed a rebound and drew Kravish's fifth foul. Hearts sank around the arena, as journeyman fifth-year senior Tarwater checked into the game.
Looney missed the front end of the one-and-one, rebounded by Bird. Cal called timeout with 32 ticks remaining.
"I attacked the glass," Bird said, "tried to get rebounds. I think for me, if I attack the glass, try to get the rebounds, it gets my offensive game going."
California head coach Cuonzo Martin set up the play in the huddle. Bird and Tarwater were to cross under the basket and set up in the corner, while Tyrone Wallace (10 pts, 10 rebounds) worked through two ball screens set by Kingsley Okoroh.
"I think Tyrone has done a great job," Martin said, "when he could have forced something, making the extra pass and trusting his teammates. That's hard for a guy who can score 20 every night, I think our team's really grown in that way." Wallace finished with his first double-double in conference play this season.
Martin told Dwight, in the huddle, not once but twice, "Be ready to shoot the ball."
Wallace drove the lane and kicked the ball to Tarwater in the left corner, right in front of the scrubeenie end of the Cal bench.
Tarwater, a 5th-year senior transfer from Cornell, did not hesitate. 2 for his last 13 from behind the arc, including three misses in this game. He put up a rainmaker, arcing nearly as high as it was long.
"Me and Jabari were supposed to cross," said Tarwater, who never stopped grinning during the postgame, "and whoever had the best shot was supposed to take it. †I was hoping it would go in, and it did. It felt good coming off my palm. I think that's the problem the last two games, I've been shooting it flat, had to get a little more lift."
It dropped through the rim and barely kissed the net cords on its way. †64-62 Cal. Another three-ball for a lead at the end of the game.
The Bruins called a timeout wtih 16 seconds left, set up a play, and got the ball in the hands of Powell, who missed a jumper with 9 seconds left. Enter Okoroh, who ripped the rebound away from Tony Parker (20 points, 7 boards). Powell fouled Okoroh, who was 2-for-4 from the stripe.
With 5 seconds left, Okoroh missed the front end of the one-and-one, Looney got the rebound, and cleared it to Bryce Alford (15 pts., 6 boards). Alford's desperation 30-footer at the buzzer was wide left.
They only had the opportunity because Sam Singer continued his recent scalding long-distance shooting. Singer scored 13 on the night, all in a six-minute stretch after the intermission, hitting his first three 3-balls before a late miss.
"The (game-winning) shot at Washington gave me confidence," said Singer, "but it started at Wazzu. Three went in and out, they felt good, and I told myself just be aggressive and confident.
"We definitely have to stop winning like this. Maybe next game it will be Jordan (Mathews), but, I'd like to get a comfortable win so we aren't feeling anxious in the last minute."
It's not likely that Martin wants to worry about how they are winning, just that they continue to do so. They played their most complete half of conference play, probably their most complete half since defeating Syracuse, before the intermission, but only led by 4 at the break, 32-28.†
One key was taking care of the rock. The Bears had just 5 turnovers in the game, only one in the second half -- against a UCLA team that averages 7.3 steals per game. They managed just one against the Golden Bears.
Cal plays Thursday at Colorado, and Sunday at Utah. Both will be stern tests for the squad's new-found confidence.
-Cal's bench out-scored UCLA's, 17-2
-Cal committed three turnovers in the first 3:00, then two more in the next 37:00
-Bird's 16 points were the most since he scored 18 vs. Cal Poly Nov. 26
-Cal hit 18 three-pointers this weeked, nine against each SoCal school.That's their best two-game total of the year.†
-26 of Cal's 61 shots were from behind the arc. 17 of their 31 second-half shots were from long range.