BERKELEY –Justin Cobbs’ performance down the stretch against No. 1 Arizona on Saturday night was so good that he left everybody breathless – including himself.
Cobbs scored the Bears’ final 12 points, including a step-back baseline jumper for the game-winner with 0.9 seconds to go, and Cal beat the top-ranked team in the country for the first time ever at Haas Pavilion 60-58 in front of a sellout crowd of 11,877.
Fans stormed the court when the clock expired, and Cobbs said for a moment he felt like he couldn’t breathe.
“Honestly, I was getting claustrophobic. I couldn’t breathe,” said Cobbs, who led the Bears with 19 points and seven assists. “But it was exciting. When the crowd is packed like that, it gives us so much energy. We feed off those guys. I want to thank the fans for coming out. It’s a great feeling.”
Cobbs’ heroics sent a delirious crowd home happy, but not before they swallowed up the Bears for a prolonged celebration on the Haas Pavilion floor. It was just the Bears’ third win ever over a No. 1 team and the first since Cal defeated UCLA in 1994 at the Oakland Coliseum.
“I just think it’s good for Cal, it’s good for the university and it’s good for the students to have that kind of excitement,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “One of the things that you're trying to generate is them enjoying the game, enjoying the players enjoying the experience, and I think there was some of that tonight. You typicall get that when the No. 1 team shows up. That’s a credit to Arizona for them to be in that position. You can't beat No. 1 if somebody doesn't get there.”
The Bears (15-7, 6-3 Pac-12) handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season and broke a three-game losing streak of their own. Cal got off to a strong start and built a 28-19 lead with 5:18 left in the first half.
Arizona (21-1, 8-1) came back to take a 31-30 advantage early in the second half, but the Bears responded. Cal went up 50-42 with 11 minutes left after Cobbs knocked down a pair of free throws.
The Bears fell behind 58-56 before Cobbs drained two more free throws to tie it with 2:29 remaining. It stayed that way until the final moments, when Cal forced Arizona into a missed shot and Tyrone Wallace grabbed the rebound.
After a timeout, Cobbs went around a screen and got to the baseline before rising up and shooting over Arizona 7-0 center Kaleb Tarczewski. The shot was well-defended, but found the bottom of the net to prompt a wild scene at Haas Pavilion.
“Justin was feeling good. He played very hard on defense,” Montgomery said. “He really got off his feet on the last shot and rose up. It looked good the whole time.”
So did the scene after the game ended. The band played, the cheerleaders danced, and the students yelled, jumped and celebrated a memorable night in Berkeley.
“It was good just getting that much love from the students,” said Cal center Richard Solomon, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. “I love it when the fans rush the court. It makes them feel like they are part of what just happened, and they are. I enjoyed it.”
And Solomon apparently enjoyed it a little more than Cobbs.
“I was able to breathe a little more,” Solomon said.