Kadary Richmond had 12 points, while Alexis Yetna and Tyrese Samuel each scored 10 for Seton Hall (4-1).
"I knew this was going to be a tough game," Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said.
Seton Hall made its first appearance in the AP Top 25 this week since the end of the 2019-20 season after beating then-No. 4 Michigan 67-65 on Nov. 16. However, the Pirates lost their first game at the Fort Myers event, 79-76 to Ohio State.
Andre Kelly had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Grant Anticevich scored 15 points for California (2-4). Kelly went 7 for 8 from the floor and made all nine three throws.
"I thought we played really well against a nationally-ranked team," California coach Mark Fox said. "We obviously had some possessions where we had some turnovers that lead to baskets, and those are costly errors. I thought we competed well."
Yetna hit one of two free throws to put Seton Hall up 60-59 with 1:05 to go.
After Cal's Jalen Celestine missed a 3, Richmond was called for a charge with 24 seconds left.
Anticevich missed a long-range jumper before Rhoden made it 62-59 on two free throws with 6 seconds left. Seton Hall fouled Joel Brown, who missed both free throws, on the ensuing possession.
"Grant is a great shooter," Fox said. "I want him to shoot that shot every time. I thought we executed it well. It just didn't go in."
Seton Hall shot 34% (17 of 50) but converted 24 of 30 free throws.
"We're offensively challenged right now," Willard said. "We're trying to make things happen instead of letting things happen."
In a game that featured runs by both teams, Anticevich had 10 points, including two 3s, and Kelly hit two free throws in a 12-5 surge that gave Cal a 56-51 lead with four minutes remaining.
After Cal put together a 14-2 run midway through the second half, Rhoden connected on a jumper and a layup as Seton Hall scored eight points in a row for a 46-44 advantage.
Cal went up 39-38 with 12:30 remaining when Lars Thiemann blocked a shot and Jordan Shepherd made a layup. Shepherd then hit a jumper to make it 41-38 after another rejection by Thiemann.
Seton Hall led 27-25, going 12 of 15 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes. For Cal, Kelly was perfect from the field (6 for 6) and on the line (3 for 3) in his 15-point first half.
"He made some tough shots," Willard said. "He's a double-double walking."
FANCY FAST BREAK
Seton Hall went up 21-13 with eight minutes left in the first when Samuel finished off a nifty sequence with a dunk. Richmond made a behind-the-back pass while jumping over the out-of-bounds line to Bryce Aiken, who then set up Samuel's driving basket.
Rhoden was fouled during a baseline drive on the game's first possession and had his layup from behind the glass go over the top of it into the basket, which didn't count. He did make both free throws.
Seton Hall: Hosts Bethune Cookman on Sunday.
California: Returns home for a Sunday night game against Fresno State.
Kadary Richmond's behind-the-back save leads to a Seton Hall dunk
Kadary Richmond steals the ball, then keeps it in with a behind-the-back pass which leads to Tyrese Samuel's jam.