ANALYSIS: Crabbe Takes Center Stage

LOCKER ROOM VIDEO AND ANALYSIS: Junior guard Allen Crabbe headlines Cal's upset effort against No. 5-seed UNLV with a performance befitting a Pac-12 Player of the Year, despite working through foul trouble all evening.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- California's thrilling 64-61 victory over UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament was a team effort. Guard Justin Cobbs was a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc, senior forward Robert Thurman was efficient with his six dunks and sophomore forward David Kravish shut down the Rebels' talented freshman Anthony Bennett -- holding him to four total field goals while blocking three shots.

But, as they always say in regards to basketball, the superstar drives a team over the top. There is a reason why junior guard Allen Crabbe won the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Like every basketball player not named Jordan or Lebron, Crabbe makes his share of mistakes. Yet, when the final buzzer sounds, Crabbe has always seemed to give the Bears their best chance to acquire the W, and leaves behind an impressive stat line to back it up.

Thursday was just another impressive stat line, backing Cal's first NCAA Tournament win since 2010. Crabbe finished with 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including four free throws down the stretch, during a period where the rest of the Bears shot 0-for-7 from the charity stripe. He finished with nine rebounds, including an offensive rebound on a missed 1-and-1 free throw that took five precious seconds off of the clock. He also dished out four assists, including a key dump-off to Thurman to give Cal an eight-point lead with 4:48 to play. Ultimately, Cal's win was a team effort. But they certainly rode on Crabbe's back to get there.

But besides the stat sheet, Crabbe was at his best during the most important stretch of the basketball game. With the game tied at 28 at halftime, Crabbe set the tone by driving hard to his right, straight at the basket. The result was a quick layup, followed by a converted floater. Soon, UNLV's defense would collapse on him, resulting in open jump shots for Kravish, and more dunks for Thurman.

That second-half-opening tone set up a 9-3 run for the Bears, which would prove to be enough of a lead to hang onto. Through the first six minutes of the second half, Cal went on a 17-9 run, opening up an eight-point lead.

During that six-minute stretch, Crabbe was 4-for-5 from the floor, with a rebound and an assist on a Cobbs three-pointer. It was enough of a boost to provide the Bears with a bit of breathing room, and put pressure on UNLV to play catch-up with struggling shooters on the floor.

Even when Crabbe had to leave the game at the 13:40 mark of the second half with his third foul, the Bears had enough of a cushion to survive based on their defensive intensity. The Rebels would not cut the lead to under five until with just under three minutes to go, and would not cut the lead to one possession until Cal was already shooting foul shots to ice the game.

And even when the Bears were missing free throws -- allowing UNLV to pull closer -- Crabbe was the only one who answered, going 4-for-5 over the last 2:30 of the ballgame. All in all, Crabbe's near double-double was enough to push Cal to a sizeable nine-point lead in the second half, and proved just barely enough to advance the Bears into the third round. Heck, he even lead the Cal fans in attendance in a brief celebration when the game was in hand.

Cal's reward for upsetting UNLV is a date with powerhouse Syracuse. The Orange are known for athleticism and slow tempo, dictated entirely by their stifling 2-3 zone defense. Nothing was more apparent in their 81-34 blowout win over Montana.

Yet, while the Bears will have a huge challenge to overcome on Saturday night, there is one player who will put up the stat line and make the necessary plays to give them a chance.

Is there any doubt who that will be? Top Stories