Fast Finish: Cal races past Pacific in the second half, wins 73-53 in non-conference finale

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Three seasons into Coach Mark Fox’s Cal tenure, his holiday humor has taken hold. After visiting Pacific closed the first half Wednesday with a 14-2 burst, being humorous wasn’t easy and probably cathartic.

“It was going to be an ugly Christmas at halftime,” Fox conceded.

Fox was left ashen with the Tigers awakening. After suffering under Cal’s attention to defensive detail, Pacific turned a pair of eight-point deficits into a five-point halftime lead. The process was sudden, unexpected and wholly threatening to the big brother school holding a 26-2 advantage in the series between the schools. The process took 6 1/2 minutes and had the Bears reeling.

But then the second half commenced, and the sunshine returned on an ugly, rainy afternoon. The Bears responded decisively with a 48-point second half in a 73-53 win.

Grant Anticevich led the Bears with 25 points, 11 rebounds and a career-best seven 3-pointers. Essentially before Anticevich closed the deal, Jared Celestine (career-best 12 points), Jordan Shepherd and Andre Kelly (11 points each) kept the Bears afloat.

In a game of subtle twists, almost all predicated on defense in the absence of eye-popping offense, Fox pointed to an unlikely turning point with 10:33 remaining and Cal clinging to a two-point lead. If anything was comical, Fox’s declaration displayed it.

“Lars made a couple of big free throws,” Fox said.

Cal increased the pressure a few minutes later with a 21-2 closing run that yielded a 20-point victory.

And what specifically turned the contest into a rout? Probably, Pacific’s lack of resolve, nothing new for a young ballclub who has yet to score more than 67 points in any of its nine losses. That frustration kicks in when you shoot 36 percent in the second half and suffer 13 turnovers.

Jaden Byers led Pacific with 10 points, Jeremiah Bailey and Sam Freeman added eight points a piece. For new coach Leonard Perry, an encouraging six-minute stretch didn’t come with much else to extoll. And yes, the humor was eliminated.

“They’re learning, they’re trying, and it’s been a hard adjustment,” coach Leonard Perry said of UOP’s trajectory. “They stick in there and they compete during practice.”

The Bears established an eight-game home win streak along with momentum leading to their next test, January 2 at Stanford. Can the Bears win on the road, and can they win in the Pac-12?

We’re making progress and now we’ve got to see if we can beat the people in the league,” Fox said.

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