After giving up its sole claim to the fourth-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with a Wednesday loss to Colorado, California all but ensured it would miss out on a first-round bye, losing to the third-worst team in the conference, 54-46 to end the regular season.
The Bears have now lost five of their last six games heading into Las Vegas. While Cal didn't necessarily match its dismal shooting night from earlier this week, they tried. The Bears went 7-for-28 from the field in the first half, and had as many turnovers as field goal makes, off of which Colorado scored seven points.
Cal's shooting didn't get much better, as the Bears shot just 27.3% from the field on the night, which was far from good enough to halt Colorado, even though Cal held the Buffs to a measly 34.0% shooting.
Still, the Bears had a chance in the closing minute. Down by six, freshman Charlie Moore -- scoreless and 0-for-5 from the field -- got the ball of an in-bound, drove wildly to the cup and kicked out just as wildly. The ball finally settled into the hands of Jabari Bird, who was fouled trying for three. Bird hit all three from the free throw line with 49.6 seconds to go
29 seconds later, redshirt senior Derrick White pulled away from a Bird steal and a sideline trap by Kameron Rooks to spin around and hit a three pointer, all but sealing the win. Colorado had gone just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half, after which Cal ed 25-22, but the Buffaloes didn't see much challenge from Cal defenders, as they dropped into a zone early. Cal dared Colorado to shoot, and shoot, the Buffaloes did. Colorado went 6-for-9 from beyond the arc in the second half, and White went 3-for-5 from long distance.
White scored 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, and pulled down eight rebounds. Guard George King only scored five points, but was a terror on the glass, pulling down a team-high nine rebounds.
Colorado held a nine-rebound deficit at the half, 28-19, but out-rebounded the Bears 20-14 after the break. Sophomore forward Ivan Rabb had eight boards in the first half, but had just four after the break, and went 4-of-11 for 11 points (good for his 16th double double of the season), with a usage rate of just 20.46% -- right at his usage rate from last season, when he had ball-toppers Jaylen Brown, Jordan Mathews and Tyrone Wallace in the lineup. In contrast, Rooks's usage rate was 27.92%, and Dontae Coleman's usage rate was 54.78%. In 10 minutes, the frenetic Coleman had 2 rebounds and six points.
In contrast to Rabb, Colorado's Xavier Johnson went 5-of-13, pulling down six rebounds and hit 1-of-4 from beyond the arc and 8-of-8 at the free throw line for 19 points, adding one steal. Rabb attempted just two free throws (making both).
Bird and Mullins led the Bears with 11 points each, but Bird turned the ball over four times. If Utah beats Stanford, they will have the fourth seed sewn up. If USC wins tonight against Washington, they would tie with the Trojans, but since Cal beat USC head-to-head, they would retain the fifth seed. If the Utes lose to the Cardinal, the two teams' records against each team in the conference by finish, top-to-bottom, are compared, until one team has an advantage. One has to go all the way down to the Bears' record against Colorado to find a discrepancy, and since the Utes beat the Buffaloes twice, should Colorado lose to Stanford, they would be the four-seed, and Cal the fifth.