Cal played zone defense for the full 40 minutes and got 19 points and nine rebounds from Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe to beat the Rebels.
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Allen Crabbe clapped his hands toward the roaring crowd. Richard Solomon shook his hips and danced. Robert Thurman pumped his fist lightly, just thankful for a chance to play again.
About the only difference between Haas Pavilion and HP Pavilion turned out to be 50 miles, two letters and one monumental stage in the NCAA tournament.
Buoyed by support from fans who made the short trip from the Berkeley campus, Crabbe had 19 points and nine rebounds, Thurman scored all 12 of his points on dunks and California held off fifth-seeded UNLV 64-61 in the East Regional on Thursday.
The 12th-seeded Bears will play in San Jose again Saturday against Syracuse.
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“I don’t buy the home-court theory because there are a lot of people there that didn’t buy tickets to watch us,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “But I will buy the theory that it was really great to be close to home because we had preparation time.”
Sure seemed that way.
The Golden Bears (21-11) held the Runnin’ Rebels (25-10) without a basket for more than 11 minutes in the second half. Cal confused UNLV with 40 minutes of zone defense. Montgomery couldn’t recall employing a zone for such a long stretch since he coached at Montana from 1977-86.
“That’s the most we’ve ever played zone this year,” said Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year. “We took them out of their rhythm.”
The Rebels rallied to within a point in the final seconds before missed free throws and a costly inbounds pass sealed the loss.
Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points and freshman NBA prospect Anthony Bennett shook off a poor start to finish with 15 points and 10 rebounds for UNLV, which beat Cal 76-75 in Berkeley on Dec. 9.
Cal became the second 12th-seeded Pac-12 team to win in San Jose, after Oregon beat Oklahoma State.
“Shows you that our conference is tough,” Cal’s Justin Cobbs said. “It’s tough from top to bottom. Teams are playing well right now. So all the bad press we were getting before maybe wasn’t true.”
Syracuse 81, Montana 34
In San Jose, Brandon Triche scored 20 points and fourth-seeded Syracuse’s zone defense smothered the 13th-seeded Grizzlies (25-7).
Michael Carter-Williams chipped in eight rebounds and nine assists as the Orange (27-9) raced to an early lead that grew as big as 50 points. It was Syracuse’s most lopsided tournament win since beating Brown 101-52 in the first round in 1986.
Syracuse plays local favorite California on Saturday for a spot in the East regional in Washington, D.C. next week.
Butler 68, Bucknell 56
In Lexington, Ky., Rotnei Clarke scored 11 of his 17 points in the last 8:44, Andrew Smith had a career-high 16 rebounds and 14 points and Butler pulled away from stubborn Bucknell.
The sixth-seeded Bulldogs made 25 of 28 free throws, including 18 of 20 in the final 4:43. Bucknell, seeded 11th, went to the foul line just eight times.
Butler (27-8) plays Marquette Saturday in a preview of the new Big East. The Bulldogs will join Marquette and the rest of the so-called Catholic 7 in the Big East after one season in the Atlantic 10.
Joe Willman had a career-high 20 points for Bucknell (28-6).
Marquette 59, Davidson 58
In Lexington, Vander Blue’s layup with one second remaining gave the third-seeded Golden Eagles (24-8) an improbable comeback victory.
Trailing by one, Marquette caught a huge break when De’Mon Brooks’ long inbounds pass for Davidson went out of bounds at midcourt with 5.5 seconds left. Blue took an inbounds pass and drove past Jake Cohen for the winning basket.
“All I was thinking was, ‘If I get to the rim, I have to finish,’ ” said Blue, who had 16 points, including seven of Marquette’s final 10. Cohen led the Wildcats (26-8) with 20 points.