OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Jameer Nelson ensured that St. Joseph's did not suffer the same fate as last season.
Nelson nailed a difficult jumper with four seconds left to lift the 12th-ranked Hawks to a 59-57 victory over California at the Pete Newell Challenge.
Last season, St. Joseph's (8-0) began the season with seven victories before traveling to California and suffering a loss at Pacific. Nelson's heroics gave the Hawks their first 8-0 start since the 1964-65 campaign.
After California's Amit Tamir airballed a hook shot with 33 seconds to go, St. Joseph's opted to hold for one shot with its All-American point guard.
The 5-11 Nelson calmly dribbled down the clock before he took three hard dribbles to the right, used a fourth behind his back to create space from Golden Bears freshman Ayinde Ubaka and drilled an 18-footer for the game's final points.
"The essence of Jameer is epitomized by the last shot because he believes, every time he steps onto the court, that his team is supposed to win," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said.
California (3-4) had one final chance. Tamir's inbounds pass to the far corner found a wide-open Ubaka, whose 3-pointer rimmed out as time expired.
Nelson put the Hawks on his back with 15 of his 19 points in the second half. He picked up backcourt mate Delonte West, who struggled to score six points on 2-of-13 shooting.
"I know the focus is going to be on the last shot, but to me, this was a team win," Martelli said. "We were tough and we had to be tough in this environment."
St. Joseph's matched its biggest lead at 39-30 on a basket by Nelson with 14:24 left to play. California fought back with a 14-2 run behind seven points by Tamir for a 44-41 advantage just before the midway point of the half.
Nelson's runner gave the Hawks a 57-53 edge with just under two minutes to go before Cal freshman Marquis Kately tied it with four straight points. A controversial intentional foul on West led to Kately's tying free throws with 57 seconds to go. The Golden Bears retained possession, but Tamir missed his go-ahead shot.
Nelson deferred to his teammates early on as seven different Hawks scored the team's first 18 points. St. Joseph's held a 28-22 halftime lead, limiting Cal to 29 percent (8-of-28) shooting.
"Nelson showed you why he's the player he is," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "He seemed to hit every big shot."
Kately scored 16 points and freshman Leon Powe recorded his sixth double-double with 15 and 13 rebounds for the Golden Bears, who start three freshmen and have alternated losses and wins in their seven games.