Cal Basketball: Golden Bears' All-Time History Against No. 1-Ranked Teams

Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was unbeaten in his UCLA career against Cal.Photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics
Jeff Faraudo

If you’re searching for a positive spin on Cal’s chances of taking down No. 1 Duke on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, you pretty much start and end with this:

The Bears prevailed in their most recent shot at the nation’s No. 1 hoops citizen, beating top-ranked Arizona 60-58 on Feb. 1, 2014.

That’s about the extent of the good news.

Cal is 3-25 all-time vs. No. 1, and the program’s other two victories involved either Pete Newell or Jason Kidd — the greatest coach and greatest player in school history.

And as coach Mark Fox said this week, “Jason Kidd is not walking through that door.”

Here’s what the Bears have never done:

— Beaten a No. 1 team coached by legendary John Wooden. His top-ranked UCLA teams were a perfect 16-0 against the Bears.

— Beaten a No. 1 team with Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. Yes, the Bears played ‘em both, and fell short each time.

— Beaten a No. 1 team in a game played outside the Bay Area.

— Played a top-ranked Duke team. The Bears’ 1993 NCAA tournament upset of the Blue Devils — two-time defending national champs — came against a Duke team that was No. 10 in the final AP Top-25.

Cal’s 3 Wins over the Nation’s No. 1 Team

March 17, 1960: Cal 77, Cincinnati 69. Newell’s team was the defending national champion, but the Bears were ranked No. 2 when they faced top-ranked Cincinnati in the Final Four semifinals at the Cow Palace in Daly City. The Bears had beaten the Bearcats and their star Oscar Robertson in the ’59 national semifinals, and they pulled it off again, limiting the Big O to 18 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Cal center Darrall Imhoff had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Bill McClintock had 18 points and 10, and Tandy Gillis scored 13.

Jan. 30, 1994: Cal 85, UCLA 70. This was Kidd at his peak as a college player. The sophomore point guard had a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists (plus 4 steals) and the Bears dominated the unbeaten Bruins in front of a sellout crowd of 15,039 at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. Monty Buckley delivered perhaps his best game with 23 points and Lamond Murray scored 21. Ed O’Bannon had 24 points and 19 rebounds for UCLA.

Feb. 1, 2014: Cal 60 Arizona 58. This was the least likely of the Bears’ three wins over a No. 1 foe. It was not one of coach Mike Montgomery’s best Cal teams, as the Bears put their pedestrian 14-7 record on the line against the 21-0 Wildcats at Haas Pavilion. But Justin Cobbs scored Cal’s final 12 points, including a game-winning, step-back jumper with less than a second left. Cobbs wound up with 19 points and David Kravish stood tall against Arizona’s talented frontline, posting 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Cal’s 3 Most Notable Defeats vs. the Nation’s No. 1 Team

Jan. 26, 1956: USF 33, Cal 24. The Dons arrived at sold-out Harmon Gym as overwhelming favorites, so Newell decided to shorten the game. Not restricted by a shot clock, Newell had reserve center Joe Hagler hold the ball near midcourt for 8 straight minutes in the second half. Bill Russell, who scored just two field goals and nine points, was so amused by the tactics that he and Cal’s Duane Asplund shared a laugh together near the basket — far from Hagler and the ball. The Dons had the last laugh, setting a collegiate record with their 40th straight victory.

Dec. 18, 1956: Kansas 66, Cal 56. Wilt Chamberlain came to Berkeley for the fifth game of his varsity career. Over the previous four he averaged 39.5 points, 22 rebounds and 9.5 blocks. Newell’s strategy was to double-team Chamberlain in hopes of denying him the ball. It worked to a point: Wilt was held to 23 points and 14 rebounds — the first time he’d scored fewer than 30 points. But Kansas came on strong at the finish to win. “All I’ve got to say,” Newell offered afterward, “is that Chamberlain has not been overrated.”

March 1, 1969: UCLA 84, Cal 77 OT. A month and a day earlier in Los Angeles, the Bruins crushed Cal 109-74. Most of the Bears’ games against Lew Alcindor went that way. Most of everyone’s did. The Bruins were 24-0 and they hoped to clinch the Pac-8 title at Harmon Gym. But Bob Presley and the Bears had other ideas. Presley held Alcindor scoreless for the first 16 minutes, even blocking three of his shots, and Cal led 48-40 at halftime. With Jackie Ridgle scoring 28 points and Charlie Johnson adding 25, the Bears stretched the game to overtime before the Bruins prevailed. Alcindor finished with 17 points.

The other 22

Feb. 7, 1964: UCLA 87, Cal 67

Feb. 8, 1964: UCLA 58, Cal 57

March 2, 1964: UCLA 87 Cal 57

Jan. 15, 1965: UCLA 76, Cal 54

Jan. 13, 1967: UCLA 96, Cal 78

March 4, 1967: UCLA 103, Cal 66

Jan. 12, 1968: UCLA 94, Cal 64

Jan. 31, 1969: UCLA 109, Cal 74

Jan. 30, 1970: UCLA 87, Cal 72

Jan. 16, 1971: UCLA 94, Cal 76

March 5, 1971: UCLA 103, Cal 69

Jan. 15, 1972: UCLA 82, Cal 43

March 3, 1972: UCLA 85, Cal 71

Jan. 13, 1973: UCLA 69, Cal 50

March 3, 1973: USC 64, Cal 53

Jan. 11, 1974: UCLA 92, Cal 56

Jan. 20, 1983: UCLA 68, Cal 63

Feb.7, 1988: Arizona 74, Cal 62

Jan. 17, 2001: Stanford 84, Cal 58

Feb. 1, 2003: Arizona 95, Cal 80

Feb. 27, 2003: Arizona 88, Cal 75

Dec. 22, 2010: Kansas 84, Cal 69

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