LAS VEGAS — Every time California tried to pull away from Oregon State, the Beavers clawed their way back.
After two tough games during the regular season, the Bears expected the pushback and were ready for it.
Ivan Raab scored two big baskets late to finish with 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, helping No. 24 California outlast Oregon State 76-68 Thursday night in the Pac-12 quarterfinals.
“They’re a tough team, they’re scrappy, they always fight back so whenever you get a lead you can’t get comfortable because they always find a way to get back into games,” said Cal’s Jabari Bird, who five 3-pointers to help keep the Beavers at bay. “It’s a good win for us.
Raab gave the Beavers trouble all night, particularly the biggest moments. He scored on a putback to put Cal (23-9) up four and finished off a three-point play with 1:22 left to make it 70-63.
Bird added 20 points for the Bears, who will face No. 12 Utah in the semifinals Friday night.
“We knew this time of year it’s anybody’s game and we had to be locked in,” Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said. “Our guys did a good job down the stretch to get a win.”
Oregon State (19-12) managed to keep it close despite playing without its second-leading scorer Tres Tinkle, who suffered a right foot injury during practice last week.
One reason was Derrick Bruce. The shifty freshman guard, who had never scored more than 11 points, had 25 against the Bears.
Gary Payton had 20 points and 16 rebounds for Oregon State, which still should be in good shape to end its 26-year NCAA Tournament drought.
“They had big nights out of several guys and we were in it until late,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said.
The Beavers boosted their NCAA Tournament chances in the opening round by holding off Arizona State 75-66.
Oregon State managed to beat Cal in the teams’ first meeting this season, 77-71 in Corvalis, but lost 83-71 in Berkeley in the second meeting.
Bird caused the Beavers problems in the second meeting, scoring 23 points, and was trouble for them again, scoring 11 in the first half. Jordan Mathews also had 11, helping the Bears to a 34-30 halftime lead.
Bruce did most of the work for Oregon State, scoring 15 points in the first half.
Cal stretched the lead to 10 early in the second half, only to get sloppy and allow the Beavers to rally and keep it close.
The Beavers took the lead with about 7 minutes left after Bruce found Payton in the corner for a 3-pointer, setting up a back and forth finish.
Raab had the biggest baskets to put Cal ahead and Mathews added a 3-pointer from the corner.
“We didn’t throw in the towel, but this is one that’s going to sting for a while because we thought we could win it,” Tinkle said.
Cal will face No. 12 Utah in Friday night’s semifinals.