BERKELEY — Thanks to Jamal Boykin, the Cal basketball team finally gets a rematch with Ohio State 48 years later.
Boykin made two free throws with 3.7 seconds left and the Bears survived New Mexico and its versatile star senior J.R. Giddens, claiming a 68-66 victory in its first-round NIT game Wednesday night at Haas Pavilion.
Giddens, who had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, rimmed out a 3-pointer at the buzzer, sending the Bears to Columbus, Ohio.
Cal (17-15) advances to the second round for a Monday game against the Buckeyes (20-13), which beat North Carolina-Asheville on Tuesday.
The Bears and Buckeyes will meet for the first time since March 18, 1960, when Ohio State beat Cal 75-55 for the national championship at the Cow Palace in Pete Newell's final game as coach.
The Buckeyes featured Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and a reserve named Bob Knight.
For Cal, this was just the latest in a long line of close games. The Golden Bears, who had lost nine of 15 games this season decided by seven points or less, squandered a five-point lead in the final 2½ minutes, but held on when Boykin delivered at the foul line.
An announced crowd of 1,906 fans — one of the smallest at a Cal home game in a quarter century — watched sophomore Ryan Anderson score 26 points. Anderson missed two free throws with 36 seconds left and Boykin grabbed the rebound.
Cal called timeout with 31 seconds left, then ran down the clock before Boykin, a sophomore transfer from Duke, drove into the lane. He was fouled and made both shots to keep the Bears' season alive.
NIT — Marreese Speights scored 18 points to help defending NCAA champion Florida snap a four-game losing streak with a 73-49 victory over visiting San Diego State. ... Dwayne Curtis had 17 points and 16 rebounds as host Mississippi beat UC Santa Barbara 83-68.
WOODEN IMPROVES — John Wooden is getting his strength back at a rehabilitation center, three weeks after the 97-year-old UCLA coaching great broke his left wrist and collarbone in a fall.
Wooden's daily exercises are making him "stronger every day," said his daughter, Nan Muehlhausen. Wooden was hospitalized Feb. 29 and sent to the rehab center March 11.