BERKELEY, Calif. — By the time the ball got to Ahmad Starks, the final seconds had ticked off the clock.
It was yet another gut-wrenching loss for the Oregon State men’s basketball team, this one 71-68 at California on Thursday evening.
The Beavers (11-10, 1-7) had a chance to tie with a 3 but did not get off a shot.
OSU had 7.3 seconds to set up a final attempt. Eric Moreland wound up with the ball on the perimeter and managed to get it to Joe Burton, who passed up a shot and tried to get it to Starks.
Coach Craig Robinson said he was to blame for not calling a timeout to make sure the Beavers were ready to execute at the end of the game.
“We had two plays called so that we wouldn’t need a timeout, but I think I should have called a timeout to at least get a shot off there,” Robinson said.
“You’ve got to give Cal credit. They played great D in that last minute. We have to execute better down the stretch.”
The Beavers led by eight at halftime and by 11 early in the second half on a 3-pointer by Roberto Nelson.
Cal responded by clamping down on defense and putting together a 24-11 run to take a 62-60 lead on a jumper by Richard Solomon with 4:59 left. It was the Golden Bears’ first lead since early in the game.
“I thought we were a little tentative when they started to make a run,” Robinson said. “You have to understand, when you’re on the road, teams are going to make runs and if you just can be calm and come back and answer them like we were doing for the most part, I thought we had a great opportunity to win this game. So it’s a tough one.”
Nelson finished with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and five rebounds. He hit a reverse layup to tie it at 62 with 4:42 to go but did not score again.
A fadeaway by Starks cut Cal’s lead to 69-68 and the Beavers forced a bad shot with 48 seconds to go, but the offensive rebound went to the Bears. A drive and dish by Justin Cobbs resulted in a Richard Solomon dunk with 17 seconds left.
After shooting 60 percent from the field in the first half and leading 41-33 at the break, the Beavers were held to 10 of 30 from the field in the second half.
“Clearly, they played a little bit better defense, but I thought we started getting tentative,” Robinson said. “Our game is to be very aggressive and keep pushing the ball.”
The Golden Bears were 16 of 31 after halftime and finished with nine 3-pointers, although they took 26 shots from beyond the arc.
Oddly enough, Cal shot two free throws for the game, hitting both.
The Beavers could not capitalize at the line; they were 8 of 15.
“You have a chance to push that lead further out and make them uncomfortable,” Robinson said. “Foul shots have been our Achilles heel all season long.”
Allen Crabbe, the Pac-12’s leading scorer at 20 points a game, managed 15 against the Beavers and Cobbs was slightly under his average with 14.
Any slack was more than picked up by Solomon, David Kravish and Robert Thurman.
Solomon finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, Kravish had 12 points and five rebounds and Thurman added eight points and six boards.
Joe Burton had 14 points and eight rebounds, Starks added 12 points and Devon Collier had 10 points and six rebounds for OSU.
California 71, Oregon State 68
OREGON STATE (11-10) — Reid 0-2 0-0 0, Collier 5-13 0-0 10, Burton 7-15 0-0 14, Starks 4-9 3-4 12, Nelson 10-16 3-3 25, Barton 0-0 0-0 0, Morris-Walker 1-1 0-0 3, Moreland 1-4 2-8 4, Schaftenaar 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 8-15 68.
CALIFORNIA (12-8) — Solomon 6-9 0-0 12, Kravish 6-8 0-0 12, Cobbs 5-14 0-0 14, Wallace 1-3 0-0 2, Crabbe 5-16 2-2 15, Smith 2-4 0-0 6, Bak 1-2 0-0 2, Powers 0-1 0-0 0, Thurman 4-4 0-0 8. Totals 30-61 2-2 71.
Halftime — Oregon St. 41-33. 3-Point Goals — Oregon St. 4-7 (Nelson 2-3, Morris-Walker 1-1, Starks 1-3), California 9-26 (Cobbs 4-9, Crabbe 3-11, Smith 2-3, Powers 0-1, Wallace 0-2). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Oregon St. 36 (Moreland 9), California 29 (Crabbe 8). Assists — Oregon St. 16 (Burton 8), California 25 (Cobbs 7). Total Fouls — Oregon St. 6, California 16. A — 8,261.