SAN JOSE -- California held UNLV without a field goal for 11 1/2 minutes of the second half, breaking from a halftime tie to record a 64-61 upset victory Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional at HP Pavilion.
By avenging a 76-75 defeat at the hands of the Runnin' Rebels earlier this season, the 12th-seeded Bears (21-11) move on to a third-round matchup Saturday in San Jose against the winner of Thursday's late game between Syracuse and Montana.
Playing before a partisan crowd in the heart of Pacific-12 Conference territory, Cal held UNLV star Anthony Bennett to 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Bennett tied guard Bryce Dejean-Jones for team-high scoring honors while also grabbing 11 rebounds for the Runnin' Rebels (25-10).
Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe led the Bears with 19 points, and star sidekick Justin Cobbs added 13, making all three of his 3-point attempts. However, it was the unexpected contributions of big men Robert Thurman (6-for-6, 12 points) and Richard Solomon (5-for-8, 11 points) that made the difference both offensively and defensively for Cal.
After the teams played to a 28-all standstill in the first half, Cal surged into a lead it never relinquished four minutes into the second half, using an 8-0 run to open the biggest margin of the game to that point, 45-37. Crabbe had two of the Bears' four hoops in the run, including a layup with 14:10 remaining that made it an eight-point game.
Meanwhile, the Runnin' Rebels were 2:20 into their lengthy field-goal-free stretch, yet they somehow managed to stay within 52-44 before Mike Moser ended the drought with a tip-in with 5:00 to go.
Thurman had Cal's only two baskets over that stretch, then added a third to re-establish an eight-point lead at 54-46 with 4:36 to go.
The closest the Runnin' Rebels could get after that was two on two occasions in the final 14 seconds, but Cal iced the win from the free-throw line.
Down six and gasping for air, UNLV appeared to catch a break when Dejean-Jones was ruled to have been the victim of a Flagrant-1 foul by Cobbs, resulting in two free throws and possession with 1:40 to go.
But befitting the Runnin' Rebels' night, Dejean-Jones made only one of his two free throws, and Bennett misfired under pressure from eight feet, effectively ending his team's hopes.
Katin Reinhardt added 11 points for UNLV, which shot just 32.2 percent in the game.