Cruz, 47, who is three years younger than the talk-show host, jumped out to an early, 4-2, lead before a much-needed timeout was called -- sweat already pouring down both men's faces.
Kimmel, who was coached by University of Virginia great Ralph Sampson, fought back, though. He rallied for a 6-5 lead on a deep hook shot, earning applause from the 7-foot-4 two-time Naismith College Player of the Year.
The game, originally scheduled to go to 15, was thankfully shortened to first to 11 points "in the spirit of bipartisanship," Kimmel said.
"We should have played to 11," Kimmel said early in the game. "True," Cruz responded. "We should have played to 4," Kimmel countered.
The game stood knotted at 7-7 before Cruz took control with a critical 3-0 stretch that would eventually prove to be the difference.
Kimmel made one last charge, pulling to 10-9 before the fateful final possession. Cruz chucked up a deep shot that barely caught the backboard. He rebounded the ball with ease, but was blocked by Kimmel on a layup attempt. The game ended with a prayer by Cruz on a deep jumper -- "jumper" being a generous term -- from just inside the 3-point line.
While the loser was supposed to donate $5,000 to the charity of the winner's choice, the pair decided in the end to each donate $10,000 to their charities.
Cruz played for the poverty-fighting Generation One Texas charity while Kimmel supported the Texas Children's Hospital, where his newborn son underwent multiple heart procedures. Kimmel's Facebook fundraiser added another $13,975 in charity to the hospital. Cruz's Facebook page raised an additional $6,174 for Generation One.
The two donated in the spirit of bipartisanship, but they continued their political battle. They broke from the game at the 7-7 point to have a quick, indecisive battle on health care.
Kimmel closed the segment by encouraging viewers to vote against Cruz.
"You don't have to play basketball against him," Kimmel said Monday. "You can vote against him. And for me I promise, I will make one promise, I will never, ever play basketball again."