By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–The Cal Bears committed more turnovers (22) than they scored points after halftime (19) on Monday against Prairie View A&M.
That won’t cut it on Thursday when the Bears step into Madison Square Garden and face Duke.
“I thought we were poorly coached today, I thought we played poorly, and two wrongs make a wrong,” coach Mark Fox admitted. “We were fortunate to escape with a win but we have to play better basketball than we played today.”
Definitely, a learning experience for the youthful Bears. But they didn’t get their lessons in a loss. Grant Anticevich hit a big 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining, and Matt Bradley scored half of his team-best 16 points in crunch time, and somehow the Bears held on, winning 54-50.
“Nothing was going our way offensively or defensively. But we stuck it out and ended up winning,” Bradley said. “We’re 4-0 right now– I’m happy to say that.”
The Panthers qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2018-19 and are the coach’s pick to repeat as SWAC champions this season. On Monday, they took the floor without Devonte Patterson, the presumptive SWAC Player of the Year, and still gave Cal fits.
“There were times we didn’t match their intensity, which was a problem. We should’ve grabbed more rebounds, but give credit to them– they played hard.”
The biggest difference between Cal’s first three wins, and the victory over Prairie View was at the offensive end. The Bears shot a cumulative 56 percent versus Pepperdine, UNLV and Cal Baptist. On Monday, against the physical Panthers, the Bears shot 39 percent and managed just eight assists on 17 made baskets. For long stretches, the ball didn’t move and the Bears settled for jump shots.
“Hopefully some days you can win because you make jump shots but that’s not the only thing that matters in the game and I felt like we had a little bit of an immature approach offensively and our decisions with the basketball,” Fox said. “We were not very good today.”
Down 52-50 in the final moments, Prairie View had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t convert. Chancellor Ellis missed a 3-pointer then with eight seconds remaining, Dejuan Madden was whistled for an offensive foul.
Anticevich had 13 points, six rebounds as the only Bear other than Bradley to score in double figures. Kuany Kuany, a slender 6’9″ freshman, made his Cal debut, but overall, the Cal bench did very little, as six reserves combined to miss 15 of their 18 shots.
Ellis and Faite Williams led the Panthers with 12 points apiece.