Harper Kamp, quiet offensively all season, came to the rescue for the Cal basketball team Thursday night.
The senior forward scored on a drive to the basket to give Cal some breathing room with 49 seconds left, and the Bears held off Colorado 57-50 to move into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 Conference standings.
Kamp scored 14 points -- his second-best game of the season -- and the Bears (14-4, 4-1) remained perfect in 12 games at Haas Pavilion.
"Harper played well, thank goodness," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Somebody had to play, somebody had to score the ball or we were going to be in trouble."
It wasn't easy. The Buffaloes (11-5, 3-1), playing on the road for the first time in a new league, led by as many as eight points in the first half and would not go away.
Colorado certainly didn't resemble a team picked to finish in a tie for 10th place in the conference.
The Bears took the lead for good when Kamp made a baseline jumper for a 47-45 advantage with 5:05 left. The lead swelled to 51-45 before Colorado scrapped back within 51-50 after a 3-pointer by Austin Dufault with 1:15 left.
Kamp then converted his tough drive to the basket for a three-point lead, Justin Cobbs made a free throw, and Allen Crabbe hit two after stealing the offensive rebound off Cobbs' miss. That gave Cal a six-point lead with 35 seconds left.
"I've been having my struggles. It was just a matter of me going out with a little
Kamp added eight rebounds, four days after he had none in a win at Oregon. He also took two charges, bruising his lower back on the second one.
"Harper gave us everything," Cobbs said. "He's a beast on the boards for his size (6-foot-8, 245 pounds), he gets after it on defense, does the little things. He did what he had to do, and we needed that tonight."
Cal survived on a night when its three top scorers seemingly could not make a basket. The perimeter trio of Jorge Gutierrez, Crabbe and Cobbs combined to make just 7 of 35 shots and totaled 26 points -- barely half their average.
"I think they got into our heads a little bit," Montgomery said of the Buffaloes' tight man-to-man defense.
Gutierrez, the club's best player all season, was 2 for 17 and scored a season-low five points.
The Bears never found an offensive rhythm but escaped because they held the Buffaloes to 32 percent shooting, including 26 percent in the second half.
"We sure didn't play well offensively, but defense kept us in," Montgomery said. "I feel good about that. We didn't give in."
Down seven at the half, the Bears scored the first six points of the period, closing to 29-28 after a hook shot by David Kravish. The margin was never more than five points either way after that until the final minute.
The Bears trailed 29-22 at halftime and probably felt good to be that close.
Their three guards scored just six points and shot a combined 1 for 17, contributing to the Bears' 31 percent first-half shooting.
Cal went more than 6 minutes midway through the first half without scoring, coming away empty on nine consecutive trips up the floor. That allowed Colorado to turn an 11-11 score into an 18-11 lead.