WELLS FARGO ARENA/TEMPE, AZ -After the waxing the Bears took in their opening matchup with Arizona State, the Bears came ready to play Saturday, jumping out to a quick 9-0 lead in Tempe.
However, the lead was not to hold up, as the Bears fell in Tempe, 74-70.
A Tyrone Wallace steal and layup, a pair of Bird buckets and a Wallace driving shot and-1 gave the Bears their quick lead just two minutes into the game.
A pair of Christian Behrens free throws extended the Bears' margin to 10 at 22-12 seven minutes into the game but ASU proceeded to steadily whittle down the lead from there with high-intensity defense and board-crashing offense.
A trey and driving shot from ASU guard Shaquielle McKissic sandwiched around a Savon Goodman jam cut the Cal lead to five with 10:10 left in the half and a layup by guard Gerry Blakes gave the Sun Devils their first lead with five minutes left in the half.
After an uninspiring 0-4 start to league play, ASU finds itself in 6th place in the Pac-12 and after an upset victory over Stanford Thursday, the Sun Devils came into the game playing for a 5th place seeding in this Wednesday's Pac-12 tournament opener. ASU also sported an impressive 14-3 record heading into the game.
A stagnant Cal offense and ASU pressure defense pushed the Sun Devil's lead to seven before point guard Sam Singer's big trey and-1 got the Bears to within three, 32-35 at the halftime break.
ASU quickly extended their lead to nine with an 8-0 run two minutes into the half.
After extending their lead to 10 on a McKissic free throw with 15 minutes left in the game, the Bears went on a 7-0 run of their own on a layup and trey by Singer and a Wallace layup, bringing the margin to 51-54 with 11:41 remaining.
ASU pushed the lead back to 10 again, culminated by a Eric Jacobsen layup with 6:39 left in the game. However, the Bears clawed back again to within four on a Wallace runner with 3:06 left in the game, 61-65.
A Kravish put back with 1:36 remaining further trimmed the ASU to two, 63-65 but a McKissic driving bucket pushed their lead to four with just over a minute to play.
A Kravish jumper on the next possession was taken off the board as the Cal bench called timeout just before the shot with :58 remaining.
After trading possessions, a Wallace trey got the Bears to within one with :30 left. That was as close as the Bears would get, after four ASU free throws stretched the lead to five. A Wallace drive got the Bears back to within three but a McKissock free throw closed it out, 74-70 ASU.
"It was a hard-fought game," said Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin. "Man, we gave ourselves a chance but we just came up short.
"I felt we did a good job of getting rebounds and making plays. Both teams battled.
"We got off to a great start but we just came up short."
The Bears will next pin their hopes on a strong Pac-12 run to try and qualify for the NIT.
"We'll be getting ready for Pac-12 play then let everything else take care of itself," said Martin.
The Bears were led by Wallace with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists. Bird finished with 13 points and three rebounds and Singer with 13 points.
ASU was led by McKissic with 21 points and nine rebounds and Goodman with 18 points and eight rebounds.
The Bears fell to 7-11 in Pac-12 play and 17-14 overall.