NCAA

Cal fights off Beavers in Pac-12 Tournament behind Bird's 20 points

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USATSI

Cal fights off Beavers in Pac-12 Tournament behind Bird's 20 points

BOX SCORE

LAS VEGAS -- Jabari Bird scored 20 points and converted a key 3-point play with 54 seconds left, helping California grind out a 67-62 victory over Oregon State Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Cal (20-11) labored for most of the game offensively and had a hard time containing Oregon State's Stephen Thompson Jr. The fifth-seeded Bears pulled it out behind Bird and a strong second half by Ivan Rabb, earning a spot in Thursday's quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Utah.

Rabb finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds after scoring two on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half.

Thompson had 25 points and hit 5 of 6 from 3-point range to keep Oregon State (5-27) in the game until late. The Beavers pulled within 59-57, but Bird was fouled on a layup and hit the free throw to put Cal up five.

The Bears came into the game knowing they couldn't afford a letdown against the 12th-seeded Beavers to maintain any hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Cal won the two regular-season meetings against Oregon State by a combined 41 points, but the Beavers were ready for the Bears in round three.

Oregon State opened the game by making three of its first four shots from 3-point range and hounded Cal defensively. The Beavers had an early 10-4 run to lead by eight and withstood a run by Cal to stay within 32-29 at halftime.

Oregon State continued to hang around, still within one after Cal forgot to guard Thompson on back-to-back 3-pointers midway through.

Even when the Bears tried to pull away, the Beavers stayed on their heels, keeping the game closer than expected.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State should be in good shape headed into next season with a young roster that loses only backup center Cheikh N'diaye.

Cal will need to play better in the quarterfinals against Utah, a team it split with during the regular season.

UP NEXT

Oregon State's season is over.

Cal faces Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday.

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

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USATSI

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

SANTA CLARA -- Quinnen Williams proved Monday night that he can talk a big game, even if he doesn’t play one.

The Alabama defensive tackle, whom many project to be a top-five pick if he leaves school for the 2019 NFL draft, didn’t exactly show out in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. The redshirt sophomore finished with just four total tackles (three solo, one assist) and 1.5 for loss.

Williams went relatively unnoticed in Clemson’s 44-16 rout, except for this first-quarter stop that showcased his power.

Williams, who entered the game tied for second on the Crimson Tide with eight sacks this season, didn’t register any noticeable pass rush -- to be fair, no one on Alabama did -- as the Tigers handily won the title.

Still, Williams wasn’t that impressed by what he saw from the now-national champions.

“They really didn’t do anything that caught us off guard,” Williams said. “We knew everything that was coming. They ran zone. They ran go routes, 50-50 balls.

“[Clemson QB] Trevor Lawrence threw the ball, and it looked like he put it on the money. He didn’t drop dimes, none of that. He threw it up, and the receivers made plays. All the respect to the receivers.”

While Williams later called Lawrence “good,” his comments were reminiscent of his pre-Orange Bowl words on Kyler Murray, when he smartly stopped himself from criticizing Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Williams showed no such restraint this time, and while you could chalk it up to the hurt of losing a national title game, NFL teams surely will ask him in pre-draft interviews about how he'll handle such situations.

As for his NFL draft status, Williams didn’t want to say much, claiming he really hadn’t thought about the possibility of turning pro after the season.

“I don’t know yet, man,” he said. “I got to go home, watch this film first, get with my teammates and let them know, man, everything.”

New Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, whose team has been linked to Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in numerous mock drafts, saw the defensive tackle in person Monday. Whether he liked what he saw or heard remains to be seen over the next three months.

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

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AP

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

SANTA CLARA -- The Clemson Tigers came into Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship with a shorter list of 2019 NFL Draft talents than their counterparts, the Alabama Crimson Tide. But not if you ask some notable alumni.

To Houston Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the next wave of NFL stars are Tigers.

“The way they prepare here at Clemson, the strength and condition program, Joey Batson and Larry Greenlee do a good job of getting those guys ready for the next level," Hopkins told NBC Sports Bay Area after Clemson's stunning 44-16 blowout win in the title game at Levi's Stadium. "I think they’re definitely ready for the next level."

Clemson has produced 29 picks in the last five NFL drafts. The last time the program didn't have one of its players called come April was all the way back in 2002.

Watching with former Clemson stars Deshaun Watson, Vic Beasley Jr., Mike Williams, and Tajh Boyd, Hopkins witnessed one of the greatest teams in college football history. The 2018 Tigers accomplished a feat 121 years in the making, becoming the first FBS football team to go 15-0 or 16-0 since Penn in 1897.

“To me, it means a lot. I’m from Clemson, S.C., so to see this team do what they did … I think they are (the greatest ever)," Hopkins said. "I think they can be one of the best teams ever. Do it again next year, for sure.”

The last statement is what means the most to Hopkins and everyone else who once wore a Clemson Tigers jersey. Coach Dabo Swinney took to the podium immediately after the win and said he'll soak it all up now, but he'll get back to film Friday and start preparing for next season.

“I think this is the next dynasty," Hopkins said. "Deshaun Watson started it by winning a national championship here. I think those guys are going to continue it.

"I think they’re gonna be here next year and the year after.”

That's not hard to imagine, either.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence wowed with his precision passing, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His top target, Justyn Ross, made one-handed catches as a recently turned 19-year-old and finished the night with six catches for 148 yards and two TDs.

Clemson made its fourth playoff clash with Alabama look easy. The biggest names in the NFL know, too, that these could be the next stars of not only Saturdays but Sundays before we know it.