California 71, Colorado State 62
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The California Bears needed no incredible comeback this time.
The Bears, who used double-digit rallies to win their opening two NIT games, had a 26-2 run in the first half and survived a second-half scare from Colorado State to defeat the Rams 71-62 Thursday night and reach the NIT semifinals.
California blew a 21-point second-half lead over the Rams, who briefly took the lead twice while holding the Bears to one basket in a 14 1/2-minute span. But the Bears scored the final 10 points of the game to win.
Michael Gill scored 18 points for California (20-11), which will face Pac-10 peer Oregon in the semifinals at New York’s Madison Square Garden next Tuesday. The Ducks defeated the Bears twice this season.
The other NIT semifinal will be Xavier against Clemson.
Gino Carlisle added 15 points for the Bears, who reached the NIT semifinals for the first time. California was 15-2 this season at the Oakland Arena, its temporary home while its campus arena is renovated and enlarged.
Milt Palacio had 19 points for the Rams (19-11), whose successful season earned first-year coach Ritchie McKay a five-year contract extension earlier this week.
California overcame a 13-point deficit in the final 15:30 to beat Fresno State 79-71 in the NIT’s first round, and fell behind by 17 points in the first half Tuesday at DePaul before rallying for a 58-57 win over the Blue Demons.
The Rams took a 9-4 lead in the opening two minutes against California, but the Bears then scored 14 straight points _ holding Colorado State scoreless for 7:23.
Colorado State finally scored to make it 18-11, but the Bears then went on another 12-point run to take a 19-point lead. During its 26-2 run, California had seven steals and blocked three shots.
The Bears led 37-20 at halftime, with Gill topping all scorers with 12 points in the half. Colorado State shot just 26 percent in the first half, compared to 53 percent for California.
Carlisle’s three-point play with 16:06 remaining in the second half gave California a 47-29 lead and led to smiles of satisfaction among the Bears. But California did not score a basket for the next 6:46, and the Rams went on a 19-3 run _ including back-to-back 3-pointers by Palacio and Erik Smith _ to pull within two points.
The Rams got to 50-48 with 7:34 left when California’s Sean Lampley shoved Colorado State’s David Fisher in the back during a stoppage of play. That resulted in a technical foul, which the Rams turned into three points.
The Bears held on to a slim lead by making free throws, but the Rams finally took the lead on a dunk by Shawn Harris with 5:51 left. California regained the lead at the foul line, but Colorado State again took the lead at 62-61 with 2:01 left on a baseline jumper by Fisher.
Boyd responded with a three-point play with 1:40 left, though, to put California up 64-62 and Carlisle’s short jumper with 55 seconds left made it 66-62. Carlisle added two free throws with 36 seconds left to increase the margin to six points.