Tae Hardy made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give UTEP a 75-72 victory over Cal on Monday night as the Miners advanced to the championship game of the SoCal Challenge’s Surf Division at San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
Hardy’s shot went in-and-out and kissed the glass before dropping in for the Miners (5-0), who have matched their best start since the 2019-20 season.
Before the game-winning shot, Hardy missed two free throws with UTEP leading by three with 16.4 seconds left. Cal (2-3) took advantage with Jalen Cone nailing a trey with six seconds left to tie it.
Hardy recorded 16 points and five steals for UTEP, which will face Bradley in Wednesday’s title game. Zid Powell had 13 points and four steals and Calvin Solomon also scored 13 points for the Miners before fouling out.
Fardaws Aimaq registered 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out for the Golden Bears. Cone and Jaylon Tyson had 15 points apiece for Cal, which will meet Tulane in the consolation game.
The Golden Bears trailed by eight with four minutes left but rallied within 72-69 when Cone made two of three free throws with 48.8 seconds remaining. That set up the wild game-ending sequence.
UTEP shot 37.7 percent from the field, including 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range. Corey Camper Jr. had 11 points and Otis Frazier III added 10.
Cal made 48.9 percent of its attempts and hit 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) from behind the arc.
The Miners led 51-45 after Hardy split two free throws with 14:03 left.
The Golden Bears scored eight of the next 10 points and went up by two on a layup by Rodney Brown Jr. with 10:17 to go.
A short time later, UTEP went on a 10-4 run. Camper finished it off with a thunderous dunk as the Miners took a 66-61 lead with 6:39 left.
Two-plus minutes later, Hardy made two free throws to push the UTEP lead to 71-63.
Powell scored nine points as UTEP led 40-35 at halftime.
Cal held a 19-12 lead on Brown’s 3-pointer with 11:50 left in the first half before the Miners ripped off a 19-2 run.
Camper’s 3-pointer gave UTEP a 24-21 edge with 8:07 remaining, and Powell culminated the burst with two free throws to make it 31-21 with 5:35 left.