SAN JOSE, Calif. — All California needed was a short trip south to feel right at home in the NCAA tournament.
Allen Crabbe had 19 points and nine rebounds, reserve Robert Thurman scored all 12 of his points on dunks and 12th-seeded California held off fifth-seeded UNLV 64-61 in the second round Thursday.
Buoyed by the crowd support of a strong contingent so close to Berkeley, the Golden Bears (21-11) held the Runnin’ Rebels (25-10) without a basket for more than 11 minutes in the second half. Cal turned a tie game into a nine-point lead during that stretch and withstood a late UNLV push for its first tournament win since 2010.
The Rebels rallied to within a point in the final seconds before missed free throws and a costly inbounds pass sealed the loss.
Cal will play Saturday against the Syracuse-Montana winner.
Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 15 points and freshman NBA prospect Anthony Bennett shook off a poor start to finish with 15 points and 11 rebounds for UNLV, which beat Cal 76-75 in Berkeley on Dec. 9. Despite being the higher seed, the selection committee placed the Rebels just 50 miles from Cal’s campus — and in the heart of its alumni base in technology-rich Silicon Valley.
Rebels fans filled up about two sections, and the rest of the red-and-black faithful was sprinkled around the blue-and-gold-clad crowd. Cal’s contingent let its presence be known, roaring to its feet at every chance.
Justin Cobbs added 13 points and five rebounds, and Richard Solomon had 11 points and seven rebounds while playing with the kind of heart and hustle coach Mike Montgomery has long preached. Cal outshot the Rebels 44 to 32 percent.
The Bears started the second half just the way they did the first — pushing the pace, swarming around in a zone defense and swishing shots with ease to go ahead 37-31 on a 3-pointer by Cobbs.
Just as he did in the first half, UNLV coach Dave Rice called timeout to stop the momentum. Katin Reinhardt’s tying shot from beyond the arc capped six straight points for the Rebels before the momentum switched sides again.
Cobbs and Crabbe led Cal’s 8-0 spurt to go up 45-37, with both guards converting layups through traffic. Bennett made three free throws after getting fouled by Crabbe before Cobbs answered with another 3-pointer, getting a hard pat on his backside by Crabbe from the bench.
The Rebels then missed 16 shots in a row from the field until Mike Moser — who was hurt early in the first matchup — put back a rebound with 5:16 remaining. The tip ended a drought of 11:14 without a basket, and perhaps even more stunning was that Cal only led 52-46.
Thurman alone almost topped UNLV’s output. The senior, who had 12 points over his previous five games, had almost as many field goals (five) in the second half as the entire Rebels team (eight).
The 6-foot-10 forward finished all of his baskets for dunks and bullied Bennett — a projected lottery pick in the NBA draft — on both ends. Bennett and the rest of the Rebels started to find their rhythm late — too late.
Bennett’s layup sliced Cal’s lead to 56-52 with 2:50 to play. After a video review, officials called Cobbs for a flagrant-1 foul for excessive contact on Dejean-Jones’ layup attempt. He made one of two free throws to bring UNLV within five.
Solomon’s dunk stretched Cal’s lead to 60-53 before the Bears broke down and gave up five straight points, including a three-point play that started when Bennett outmuscled Crabbe for a layup to slice Cal’s cushion to 60-58 with 14.4 seconds remaining.
Cobbs made one of two free throws, then Anthony Marshall hit one of two at the line after Cal intentionally fouled him to prevent a tying 3-pointer. After Cobbs missed one of two again, Marshall hit a pair to trim Cal’s lead to 62-61.
The Rebels missed a chance to foul Cobbs and let precious seconds tick away before wrapping up Crabbe with 1.6 seconds remaining. The Pac-12 Player of the Year made both shots, and Solomon intercepted the inbounds pass around midcourt to put the game away.
Cal became the second 12th-seeded Pac-12 team to win in San Jose. Earlier in the day, conference tournament champion Oregon beat fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 68-55 in a second-round game in the Midwest Region.