SAN DIEGO (AP) — For a few wild seconds, California's players, led by Don Coleman, celebrated near midcourt as if they'd won the national championship. The Golden Bears earned the chance to get a little crazy by surviving a chippy final few minutes of a 63-62 victory against San Diego State after they had blown a 14-point lead on Saturday.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — For a few wild seconds, California's players, led by Don Coleman, celebrated near midcourt as if they'd won the national championship.
The Golden Bears earned the chance to get a little crazy by surviving a chippy final few minutes of a 63-62 victory against San Diego State after they had blown a 14-point lead on Saturday.
Juhwan Harris-Dyson made two free throws with 7.8 seconds left and Coleman converted a 3-point play in the final minute for the Golden Bears (4-6), who were coming off an unfathomable 27-point home loss to Central Arkansas.
"I had to show the crowd a little something because of the boos, so I was happy we pulled the win out," Coleman said.
Coleman was booed every time he touched the ball in the final 9 ½ minutes after he and SDSU's Malik Pope got tangled up on the floor. As they were untangling, Coleman kicked at Pope. Both were assessed personal fouls, but SDSU's crowd wasn't happy with Coleman.
Cal snapped a two-game losing streak overall and a four-game skid against SDSU (7-3).
Harrison-Dyson was fouled by Devin Watson on a layup following an SDSU turnover and made both free throws. Jeremy Hemsley missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Cal scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 48-34 lead. SDSU was slowly whittling away when the game turned chippy. As SDSU's Jalen McDaniels made a layup to close to 55-49 with 9:42 left, Coleman and Pope were tangled on the floor at the other end.
"I thought I got fouled so I was kind of frustrated," Coleman said. "He kind of grabbed my foot so I kind of like kicked him off me. That was it, really. He was holding my leg so I kicked him."
Said Pope: "It was just physical, a lot of emotions. He's a chippy player, which is expected. Can only respect it, but I got a little kick down there; a little retaliation by me, which is just a mental breakdown that hurt us. It wasn't really anything serious. I was hoping we got the ball but you know, stuff happens."
Cal went cold and SDSU kept chipping away, taking a 58-56 lead on Matt Mitchell's 3-point shot with 4:26 left.
The Aztecs had a 62-58 lead after Hemsley made one of two free throws with 50.5 seconds left before Coleman converted a 3-point play to close to one point. SDSU's turnover led to Harris-Dyson's tying and winning free throws.
Pope had 20 points and eight rebounds, while Mitchell and Hemsley had 13 points apiece.
Justice Sueing scored 12 for Cal, including the first seven points of the first half. Darius McNeill scored 10.
"We needed this one," Coleman said. "We needed a big one to get our confidence back. We knew the last game we struggled and we knew we had to bounce back."
Coach Wyking Jones was pleased with the way the Golden Bears responded after some tough practices following Wednesday night's loss and even an 8 a.m. shoot-around Saturday.
"I expected them to compete tonight," Jones said. "I actually felt really, really good about this game. I knew our guys would play with a chip on their shoulder against these guys because the mentality of San Diego State is they come in and try to out-physical you."
California: The Golden Bears were coming off two big home losses, by nine points to Saint Mary's and 27 points to Central Arkansas.
San Diego State: The Aztecs lost to a Pac-12 team for the third time this season. They blew a halftime lead and fell 90-68 at Arizona State on Nov. 14, and blew a nine-point second half lead and lost to Washington State 93-86 in the championship game of the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton on Nov. 26. Guard Trey Kell missed most of the second half with a bruised quad.
SDSU struggled against Cal's zone, making only 6 of 28 3-point shots.
"It was a complete team effort," Jones said. "The guys absolutely followed the game plan. We wanted to slow things up a little bit. We just said to our guys, 'If we play that 2-3 zone, we're going to make them shoot us out of it. Keep it tight, try to limit penetration.' The main thing was not letting them get offensive rebounds or get out in transition and we did a great job in that."
"I think we all know if you shoot 6 for 28 from 3 you're not going to win a lot of games against a zone," SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said. "I think Cal hurt us rebounding. We knew that was a possibility." Cal outrebounded SDSU 33-24.
California returns home to Berkeley to face Cal State Fullerton next Saturday.
San Diego State is off until Dec. 21, when it hosts No. 12 Gonzaga.
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