BERKELEY, Calif. – Undersized and undermanned, Louisiana Tech nearly ended California’s 23-game home winning streak but the Bears were able to escape with a 68-59 win in overtime on Wednesday night inside Haas Pavilion.
Jalen Harris did not suit up and Qiydar Davis suffered an injury in the first half which put LA Tech’s (3-3) depth to the test against a team who was receiving points in the top 25.
The Bulldogs still played as good of a defensive game as one could possibly have, especially on perimeter, by holding Cal (5-1) to just 17 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The ‘Dogs were ruthless on the glass as well, only being outrebounded by four (48-44) but tallying more offensive boards than the Bears.
After the game went into overtime at 57-all, LA Tech got on the scoreboard first with an 18-foot jumper from Erik McCree just 42 seconds into the extra frame. However, that was the only made field goal the Bulldogs could muster.
On the other end, the Bears only had one made field goal for the five minutes as well but they converted on eight free throws from the charity stripe to seal it.
“I am really proud of our guys,” head coach Eric Konkol said post game. “They fought through a lot of adversity. They displayed a lot of toughness in this environment against Cal. It was a physical ball game. We were able to put ourselves in the position to win the ball game. We just needed a couple of plays to go our way.”
The nine-point margin matched Cal’s largest of the game which came at 31-22 with 2:13 to play in the first half. The Bulldogs then went on a 7-0 run to get to within two at intermission.
That run was ignited by LA Tech flying up the floor, pushing the basketball to create scoring opportunities before Cal was able to set its defense. The late run came primarily from the foul line with Derric Jean hitting four straight and Joniah White adding the last point.
The strong defensive effort spilled over into the second half for the Bulldogs, holding the Bears scoreless for over six minutes of action combined. In the midst of it, Jean tied the game up at 31-31 with a fast-break layup.
“It is a game of runs,” Konkol said. “I am happy our guys stuck together. We talked about needing to find a way to stay close. Our point guards grew up tonight. They have been thrown into the fire and put into an environment where they need to produce for us and they have.”
The game got knotted up for a fourth time at 49-49 with 4:25 to play. The ‘Dogs took a one-point lead on a made free throw by Erik McCree, but the Bears responded with their first made three-pointer of the game coming from point guard Charlie Moore.
Jacobi Boykins then had an answer of his own with a three-pointer. After two more misses from long range by Cal, Moore came up big again for his team by hitting another one from beyond the arc to sway the advantage back in favor of the home team by two.
DaQuan Bracey made two big free throws to tie it up again at 55-55 with one minute to go. The Bears managed to get a short jumper from Sam Singer late in the shot clock to retake the lead, but countered with a driving layup that ultimately sent the game into overtime.
Three Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by Jean who had 13 points to go along with seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. McCree notched his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds and Boykins tallied 12.
The team shot just 27 percent from the field (18-66) but was 19-of-23 from the free throw line for 83 percent, the best so far this year.
Cal was 26-of-63 for 41 percent from the field, doing almost all of its damage inside with 40 points in the paint. Moore got close to his season average with 19 points, but was held to just 7-of-17 from the field and had five turnovers.
Future NBA Lottery pick Ivan Rabb was the main key to the Bears victory as the 6-foot-11-inch power forward had a game-high 25 points and 13 rebounds.
LA Tech continues play in the California Bears Classic on Saturday, Dec. 5 in a home matchup against in-state foe Southeastern Louisiana. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. inside the Thomas Assembly Center.
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