Cal’s Best Effort: Bears see late lead evaporate in 62-59 loss to No. 21 Seton Hall

By Morris Phillips

This time the present-and-accounted-for Cal Bears made plays and got stops at the Fort Myers Tip-Off… with the exception of the final 83 seconds.

Cal–in their best performance yet–pulled even with No. 21 Seton Hall on Grant Anticevich’s made free throw only to lose 62-59 seconds later when they couldn’t convert on any of their last three possessions.

“I thought we played really, really well,” coach Mark Fox said. “We just didn’t close it.”

The Bears got big performances from Anticevich and Andre Kelly who combined for 38 of their 59 points, but they allowed their second consecutive ranked opponent to escape what would have been an embarrassing defeat.

“No matter what, you get out of here 1-1 and two months from now it’s not going to matter what the score was,” Pirates coach Kevin Willard said.

The Bears needed Seton Hall to struggle offensively in part due to the Pirates’ misfortune, but also attributable to Cal’s defense along with their deliberate, offensive pace. And all three transpired along with Cal’s two leaders having big nights. A 10-2 run in the first ten minutes after halftime, gave Cal a 39-38 lead, and put Seton Hall on their heels.

A pair of made free throws from Kelly with 4:39 remaining gave Cal its biggest lead, 56-51, but they couldn’t sustain it. When Cal went scoreless for two minutes plus, Ohio State transfer Bryce Aiken strung together five points in 6-0 run that allowed the Pirates to regain the lead.

Two more made free throws from Kelly put Cal in front again, and seconds later Anticevich’s first of two free throws got Cal even at 59. But Anticevich missed the second, and a three with seven seconds left. Jalen Celestine missed a three early in a shot clock with 42 seconds to go. And with three seconds remaining, Joel Brown could convert his first free throw before purposely missing the second. Brown ended up on the charity stripe when Seton Hall elected to foul leading by three and less than 10 seconds left.

“Grant’s a great shooter and I want him to take that shot every time,” Fox said. “I thought we executed it well, it just didn’t go in.”

“I thought we played really well against a nationally-ranked team. We obviously had some possessions where we had some turnovers that lead to baskets, and those are costly errors. I thought we competed well.”

Jared Rhoden scored 21 points, and Kadary Richmond added 12 for Seton Hall. Alexis Yetna and Tyrese Samuel each scored 10 points as Seton Hall improved to 4-1.

The Pirates shot 34 percent from the floor, and 22 percent from three. They bailed themselves out by making 24 of 30 free throw attempts.

“We’re trying to make things happen instead of letting things happen,” Willard said.

The Bears fell to 2-4 and they return home to Haas Pavilion on Sunday to host Fresno State at 7:00 p.m.

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