By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–Active hands, defensive intensity and limiting second chances, the Cal Bears had some admirable phrases attached to their performance against Fresno State on Sunday night.
And one more: salting it away late which the Bears did in getting past the Bulldogs, 65-57 at Haas Pavilion.
Jordan Shepherd scored 17 points, and the Bears used a 13-4 run with eight minutes remaining to pull away from Fresno State. The Bulldogs were forced into uphill mode from the outset, falling behind 11-2 then suffering a lackluster effort on the glass combined with some untimely turnovers.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do to score and make the stops that we needed to on the road,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said. “We didn’t play a mature game to be able to come out and get a win on the road in front of a crowd. We just didn’t get the job done tonight.”
Conversely, Cal was ready to go from the start, and backed their early lead with an inspired defensive effort that kept the Bulldogs off the foul line and held to a season-low 57 points. Fresno State shot 36 percent in the first half and 43 percent for the game.
Credited with just three offensive rebounds, Fresno State was kept from second opportunities, and they got burned on their 12 turnovers which Cal used to fashion a 15-4 edge on points off turnovers. Orlando Robinson, Fresno’s 7-foot, junior center led them with 25 points, nine rebounds, but he didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates combating the Bears in the paint.
Isiah Hill was the only other Bulldog to score in double-figures but he was held to 10 points, missing his nine of his 13 shots from the floor.
A 16-9 run to open the second half got the Bulldogs even at 37. But after the game was tied at 40, Cal responded with their run to put the game away as Grant Anticevich scored six of his 13 points as Cal went up 53-44 with 3:19 remaining.
Andre Kelly contributed 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting, and his scoring was instrumental in Cal’s fast start.
The Bears are 3-4 on the season after consecutive losses accumulated in Florida. Next, they open Pac-12 competition with a home game against Oregon State on Thursday, and a trip to Salt Lake City on Sunday to face the upstart Utah Utes.
The match-up with the Beavers undoubtedly gives Cal its most favorable scheduling break of the season thus far with Oregon State on a six-game losing streak, including consecutive losses to Tulsa, Samford and Princeton.
While the Bears may sense a team in disarray, Oregon State is simply a team defined by returning experience as well as a completely-retooled backcourt that has been outplayed in parts of the team’s seven games. OSU is poised for improvement sooner rather than later.
The Beavers may also sense something well: that the Bears, picked to finish last in conference, might be just what coach Wayne Tinkle’s team needs to see this Thursday in order to end a losing skid and open conference play in style.