LAS VEGAS -- A 79-69 overtime loss to 10th-place Utah in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday night will leave Cal fretting about the postseason until the NCAA tournament selections are announced Sunday.
The Bears (20-11) were regarded as a solid bet to make the NCAA field. ESPN.com listed them as a "lock." Their RPI ranking was No. 49. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected them as a No. 9 seed -- nowhere near the "bubble."
But could a loss to a team with an RPI ranking of No. 168 give the selection committee pause?
Asked if he believes his team deserves a spot in the NCAA tournament, Cal coach Mike Montgomery said, "I'll give my stock answer ... as if my opinion means anything to anybody: The answer to your question is yes."
But his players were unsure what to think.
"I don't really know," said Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year. "We feel like we did enough as a team to impress these people."
"I don't know," Justin Cobbs chimed in. "It's tough to tell. I'm not big on RPI stuff and in or out. We'll find out on Sunday."
Cal, which lost at home to Stanford in its final regular-season game eight days earlier, had won its previous seven games. But the Bears' most recent victory now seems ages ago -- an 18-point home victory over Colorado on March 2.
The second-seeded Bears had every opportunity to take the guesswork out of Selection Sunday, even after falling behind 18-11 out of the gate.
They led 44-36 with just under 14 minutes left and seemed ready to take control of the game.
They couldn't, and the Utes wouldn't go away.
Minutes later, Utah's Jarred DuBois forced overtime by hitting a long 3-point shot from the left wing with 4 seconds left in regulation.
The Utes (15-17) then scored the first five points in overtime, including a 3-point basket by freshman Jordan Loveridge, and Cal never regained the lead.
Utah, which will face Oregon in Friday night's semifinal, shot 13 for 16 from the foul line in overtime to pull away.
Cobbs scored 26 points for Cal, and Crabbe had 21.
DuBois had 21 points for the Utes, who beat Cal for the first time in five tries the past two seasons since joining the Pac-12. Loveridge scored 20 points.
Cal led 57-54 with 28.2 seconds left in regulation when Crabbe missed the second of two free throws, leaving the door ajar for the Utes.
Loveridge was fouled by freshman Tyrone Wallace while attempting a 3-pointer with 17.7 seconds left. Loveridge made the first two free throws before Cal called timeout.
Loveridge then missed the third try, and when Crabbe made two foul shots with 16.3 seconds left, the Bears were up 59-56. But DuBois swished the 3-pointer to force overtime.
Asked what was going through his mind when he released the shot, the senior guard said, "That it was going in."
Montgomery, not waiting for the question, said, "It's the old thing: Do you foul, up three (points)? Obviously, the answer is yes.
"In overtime their confidence went sky high, and we kind of put our chin to our chest."
The Utes entered the game riding a three-game win streak against Pac-12 competition for the first time since coming into the conference, and they responded each time Cal seemed ready to pull away.
"We had it and let it go," Crabbe said. "Give credit to them."
"There were stretches we defended well and got stops and rebounded the ball," Cobbs said, "and that's when the lead expanded to eight.
"Then everything stopped, and they started scoring the ball and the lead started decreasing and decreasing and decreasing."
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