SAN DIEGO – Playing for the first time since leading rebounder Richard Solomon was suspended, No. 24 California was outrebounded and outhustled in losing to San Diego State for the second straight season.
Chase Tapley scored 25 points, including two free throws with 8.6 seconds left, and San Diego State won 64-63 on Sunday.
Solomon, who was suspended indefinitely on Friday because of conduct contrary to athletic department values, is averaging 6.0 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds.
"It's not the reason we lost," Justin Cobbs said. "Richard's an important part of our team but still, we should have done what we needed to win."
Tapley came up huge with his offense and defense down the stretch for the Aztecs (8-2), whose last six wins have been by four points or fewer.
Tapley had a rebound with 20 seconds left and fed Jamaal Franklin, who was fouled and made both shots for a 62-58 lead. Cobbs made a layup with 9.2 seconds left before Tapley was fouled and hit both free throws to give the Aztecs a four-point lead. Allen Crabbe of the Bears (6-2) made a 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds for the final margin.
"Everybody got caught standing around," Crabbe said of the rebound that ended up in Tapley's hands. "It's really nobody's fault. We needed somebody to be aggressive and go get the rebound."
SDSU outrebounded Cal 37-35 and outshot the Golden Bears 43.4 percent to 40 percent.
"We didn't rebound the ball well and we didn't shoot the ball well," Cobbs said. "We're a better shooting team than that. Sometimes the ball doesn't go in and you have to do a better job on the defensive end."
The Aztecs made 9 of 10 free throws over the final 2:21. Tapley had 10 of SDSU's final 21 points.
San Diego State beat California 77-57 last season in Berkeley. This was San Diego State's second win against a ranked Pac-12 team this season and its third overall against the more glamorous conference. The Aztecs beat then-No. 23 Arizona 61-57 at Tucson on Nov. 23. They also beat USC 56-54 at home on Nov. 17.
"This was terrific. But we expected to win. We thought we would win. We thought we were the better team, and I think that's significant, also," said coach Steve Fisher, whose Aztecs were ranked in The Associated Press' Top 25 all last season but have yet to crack this season's poll. The Aztecs were coming off an 85-83 home loss to Creighton on Wednesday night in which they blew an 18-point first-half lead.
"It's a crazy game that we play," Fisher said. "I remember the feeling I had after Creighton, and we played every bit as hard as we did today. But today we found a way to make one extra play, one more play, and be euphoric as we raced to the locker room. This was a really great win for us. To a man, everybody who played made plays that won for us."
Crabbe scored 23 points and Cobbs had 17 for the Golden Bears.
Cal led only once in the second half, 51-50, after Crabbe's layup with 6:31 left.
On Cal's next possession, Tapley intercepted Cobb's alley-oop pass on a 3-on-1 break, then went down the court and made a layup for a 52-51 lead with 5:50 to go.
The Aztecs stayed in front the rest of the way.
"Was that ever sensational?" Fisher said. "Chase has done a phenomenal job of anticipation, alertness, experience, setting people up. It's almost like he baited that play to be made. He got down low, knowing that he was going to tease him to try to throw the lob. Made a phenomenal play."
Tapley said the Aztecs needed something to happen then.
"My first instinct was try to get a foul without getting an intentional foul," Tapley said. "I said, 'Hey, you know what, why don't you just get a steal.' So I backed up, saw he was about to throw it, looked into his eyes, and as soon as it left his hands I jumped and tipped the ball and I went down and tried to score."
Cobbs missed shots on consecutive possessions, including a coast-to-coast attempt when he fell to the court and remained there while Franklin got the rebound. Tapley finished that possession with a 17-foot jumper for a 55-51 lead with 4:20 left. Cobbs was hurt on the play and had to be helped to the bench.
Crabbe then hit a 3-pointer for Cal.
The Aztecs went on an 8-0 run to close the first half and take a 33-25 lead. James Rahon had consecutive jumpers before Tapley had a steal and a layup. Franklin made two free throws to finish he run.
Cal erased most of that deficit in the first two minutes of the second half when Gutierrez made a bank shot and Cobbs hit a 3-pointer.
After Cal tied it at 40 on David Kravish's jumper, Xavier Thames hit a 3-pointer for SDSU.