No. 12 versus No. 5 matchups are known for producing upsets in the round of 64, but that did not make it any less surprising when No. 12 California held on for a 64-61 victory over No. 5 UNLV on Thursday, March 21.
The Rebels marched into the 2013 NCAA tournament behind star freshman forward Anthony Bennett, while the Bears had the lowest RPI rank of any No. 12 seed in the competition.
This appeared to be one of the 12-5 games least likely to deliver a surprising result, but Cal came out firing and began to pull away in the second half. The Bears led by nine points with under seven minutes to go in the game, but UNLV had no intention of bowing out without a fight.
With a season-ending upset loss quickly becoming a reality, Bennett and junior forward Mike Moser started to pull the Rebels back in the game. All five of Moser’s points in the contest came in the last seven minutes, while Bennett contributed five more points in this stretch.
This, in addition to clutch free throws from senior guard Anthony Marshall, allowed the Rebels to pull within one point with six seconds left on the clock. But Cal’s Allen Crabbe also showed nerves of steel at the charity stripe, and he was able to push the Bears’ lead back to three points.
The free throws capped off a superb 19-point, nine-rebound performance from Crabbe, and he was one of four Cal players to score in double digits.
Bennett’s freshman year ended with a 15-point, 11-rebound outing that wasn’t quite enough to prevent a disappointing defeat for UNLV. In the end, the Rebels made too many mistakes and couldn't take advantage of Cal's poor free-throw shooting (the Bears were 43.8 percent from the line).
The Bears will move on to play the winner of the game between No. 4 Syracuse and No. 13 Montana.
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