The Beavers clawed, scrapped, muscled their way back from a fourteen point first half deficit to a three point ball game in the final minute.
It became a one point game in the final four seconds- a situation all too familiar for OSU.
They were hoping to re-write history on Joe Burton's Senior day. Instead, they repeated it.
The game began with a great deal of emotion from Burton, who wiped tears from the corners of his eyes, rubbed a hand over his orange mohawk, and walked over to his family moments before tip.
It ended with noticeably more tears from the post-game podium. More running of hand over mohawk.
Turns out, there was a very important person in the coliseum tonight, his father.
Willie Burton, a former football player at Utah, had seen his son only a handful of times. Saturday's pregame ceremony was the first time since his high school graduation (see his embrace -orange hoodie- in this video).
"Very emotional start to the game,'' Robinson said. "I think that's what did it to us.''
The first half was horrendous offensively, and despite one hell of a comeback, it was only overwhelming disappointment that permeated Gill Coliseum. It weight heavily on Roberto Nelson, who wanted to win so badly for his trench-mate of the past four years.
"He's the reason I came here. Being as close to him as I am, I don't consider him a friend, he's a brother to me," said Nelson as Joe wiped his foggy glasses and took long gasps. "We fought hard, and we still owe a lot to Joe. We aren't going to give up."
Burton played with heart, aggression, and determination emanating from his turquoise jersey the entire game; he had 15 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 steals.
My heart sank for Joe Burton in that press conference. He ripped the ball from the clutches of one player after another, made passes in traffic no one on either team would have the balls to even consider, pulled his team from quicksand with his bare teeth time and again.
I know what it's like to want something so badly, to need someone like a parent to be proud of you, to want your efforts to mean something at the end of the day.
And they do. Of course they do. But that one point, that one point...
I must say, I couldn't catch my breath when Ahmad Starks' last second three-pointer hit the rim with a thud.
Down 60-59, with four seconds remaining, Robinson called a time out. The play called for a three by Starks. They didn't need three. Hell, they only needed one. Why not get someone to drive to the basket, overtime battle be damned?
"It was the way they defended that play. We run things where there are always options. We couldn't get the ball to Roberto. It ended up in Ahmad's hands," explained Robinson.
It felt like all the air had suddenly left the building. Not because they lost, but because I've seen them fight, and fight, and fight just to have the rug pulled out at the end. How many times can you lie down, bleed, get back up? How much fight is left?
The ball clanks off the basket. The buzzer sounds. And the rest is history on repeat.
Eric Moreland had 14 rebounds. Roberto Nelson came two shy of 1,000 career points.
Cal's Justin Cobbs had 18 points. Tyrone Wallace had 11, and Allen Crabbe was held to just 6.
A technical foul before the game even began put Cal up one point. Oh, the irony.
The opening minutes were a bit frenzied, peppered with Joe Burton clawing to keep the Beavers close. 4-5 at 15:55
The Beavers were up 8-7 at the 13 minute mark, but then the bleeding began, and it didn't stop for a very long time. Despite Burton's aggressive play and Moreland's 6 point, 6 rebound contribution early, Cal managed a 12-0 to build a 19-8 lead. They took advantage of some easy looks, including a wide open Crabbe three-pointer. It didn't help that OSU was 4-19 from the field. 0-5 on threes, 0-3 on FTs.
Nothing was working for the Beavers. With four minutes in the half remaining, they were down by ten points.
Roberto Nelson drilled a three to get the Beavers closer, 20-27 in the final minute.
A sky hook attempt by Burton fell flat at the break with Cal up 29-20. But there was enough spark in those final minutes to give Beaver nation a sliver of hope.
Or maybe not. Cal scored the first four points of the second half on quick layups and transition baskets. Beaver Nation hoped this wasn't going to be the second half theme.
Around the fifteen minute mark, OSU went on a 6-2 run to get within striking distance, 32-37.
Midway through the second half, the Beavers played game of hot potato with the Bears, Roberto finally grabbed the rock, made a banker and got within 3, 43-40.
The Bears kept shooting successfully,but the Beavers kept fighting back, keeping it within six points until the last minutes. Things were looking up; they made all their free throws at the end (8) and fought hard for points in the paint.
Cobbs missed a shot with 10 seconds to go, and Burton got the rebound, setting up that final, fateful try by Starks.
*Beavers play their next opponent Thursday, the Oregon Ducks, who will be riding high after decimating Stanford today.