SAN JOSE -- Cal's NCAA Sweet 16 dreams dissolved into a 40-minute nightmare against the Syracuse zone defense on Saturday night at HP Pavilion.
Unable to even get off a shot at times, the Bears had their postseason run end with a 66-60 loss to the 16th-ranked Orange in front of a sellout crowd of 18,030.
Down 14 points with 111/2 minutes left, Cal made it look close with a rush at the finish. But the Bears never got closer than six points and for much of the evening struggled to solve Syracuse's 2-3 zone.
The Bears turned the ball over seven straight times early in the game to fall behind 11-2, then scored just seven points during a stretch of 19 possessions in the second half.
"I was very fearful that was going to happen," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "I wasn't sure we had the personnel in a day (of preparation) to get done what we needed to get done."
The Orange (28-9) will advance to Washington D.C. for the East regional semifinals on Thursday -- its 18th Sweet 16 appearance and fourth in the past five years.
Cal (21-12) was hoping to get that deep into the NCAA bracket for the first time since 1997.
For most of the night, coach Jim Boeheim's defense was as advertised -- too long, too physical, too confusing.
No one struggled more than the Bears' 1-2 backcourt punch of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, who combined for just 13 points on 5-for-18 shooting. They entered the game with a combined scoring average of more than 34 points.
Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, scored just eight points -- nearly 11 under his norm. He had three points until the final 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
"I was pretty frustrated with the way I played," he said. "I felt I could have helped the team more."
Montgomery said the Orange geared its defense to stop the Bears' best perimeter threat.
"They weren't leaving Allen," Montgomery said. "Whatever zone it was, they knew where Crabbe was the whole time."
If this was the junior guard's final game at Cal before perhaps entering the NBA draft, it wasn't an example of his best work.
Asked about his plans, Crabbe said, "I don't have any comment. It would be pretty selfish to talk about my future after we just lost the game."
Cobbs didn't score until 9:11 remained and wound up with five on 2 for 9 from the floor. He missed all five of his 3-point tries.
"It's tough playing 25 feet away from the basket," Cobbs said. "They keep you out of the inside and making you shoot all deep shots. The zone was hard."
Junior Richard Solomon took advantage of the Bears' chances near the basket, posting career highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds. Tyrone Wallace had 12 points and Robert Thurman, two nights after scoring 12 points on six dunks against UNLV, added nine.
The problem was little of it happened before it was too late. Cal had 17 turnovers, and during a span of nearly 51/2 minutes early in the game didn't even attempt a shot. The Bears shot 39 percent and made just 4 of 21 shots from behind the arc.
"We turned the ball over and barely took a shot and still were in the game," Kravish said. "That speaks to the defense we were playing. But you've got to put the ball in the basket at some point."
Cal gave the crowd something to cheer about late, pulling within 58-51 after Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 1:50 left.
The Bears then forced a turnover, but Crabbe stepped out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Orange. Cobbs scored on a drive with 1:20 left and the Bears trailed just 59-53.
They got no closer.
"I definitely thought we had a chance to win," Kravish said. "We displayed the team we could have been."
The Orange weren't terribly efficient on offense but didn't have to be. They missed 15 free throws, turned the ball over 15 times and converted just 39 percent from the field.
But they seized control early, and Cal never recovered.