The Runnin' Rebels were undefeated at home, knocked off then-No. 1 North Carolina just down the Strip and then-No. 14 Illinois on the road.
But with five players dealing with the flu and forward Richard Solomon out with a stress fracture, the Golden Bears had no hope and it showed as UNLV raced out to a 46-26 halftime lead en route to a 85-68 win Friday afternoon at Thomas and Mack Center that had the pre-Christmas crowd of 15,188 delighted.
"For us to come in here and win at their place, we're going to have to play really good basketball. We didn't do that," Cal head coach Mike Montgomery said.
Gutierrez missed Monday's win over UC Santa Barbara because of illness, while Crabbe was felled midweek. Clearly not 100 percent, they combined for 25 points but were just 7 of 27 from the field.
"We had two primary guys not have good shooting nights and that makes it tough," Montgomery said. "Jorge has to score for us, Crabbe has to score for us. Had they made shots they normally make, it's a little different deal."
That fueled a nearly 10 minute drought without a field goal, during which UNLV (13-2) extended its lead from one point to 16 and never looked back.
"We should never go eight minutes without making a shot," Cobbs said. "We won't have another night like that again."
"When we got frustrated, we started to force it a little bit," Montgomery added. "That's not the way to get out of that situation.
While Cal missed everything, UNLV seemingly couldn't miss anything. UCLA transfers Chace Stanback and Mike Moser each hit three three-pointers, while Anthony Marshall scored a game-high 22 points.
Oscar Bellfield added 11 assists as Cal struggled in vain to stop the pick and roll.
"They were able to get under our bigs, penetrate and find the shooters," Cobbs said of the Rebels, who shot 54.3 percent in the first half and 48.6 percent for the game.
"They could have run off on us and that was one thing I was really, really hoping that we wouldn't let happen and we didn't," Montgomery said. "It was a mental thing that we could get ourselves back in the game and could play as opposed to actually win the game. But it was important that we did that."
Cal opens Pac-12 play next Thursday night at home hosting USC and while the team expressed confidence, Montgomery said the key would be getting everyone healthy.
"We've got to have our key people compete," he said. "If our key people do what they are capable of, we're going to be fine."
"We know we can beat anybody in our conference," Cobbs said. "We just have to stay confident and prepared and next time we have to be the aggressors. We got to jump on top of them."