Cal rallies only to fall short in 61-58 loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament

By Morris Phillips

A year after the onset of COVID-19, and the abrupt departure of sporting events across America, the mindsets of the Cal Bears and Colorado Buffaloes heading into their Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal had similar themes.

A year ago, the youthful Bears ended their season with a win–against rival Stanford no less–and the Buffaloes were left with the sour taste of an upset loss to 11th-seeded Washington State.

Great memories for Cal, bad memories for Colorado, and the overwhelming unlikelihood that both teams would leave Las Vegas this year with the same emotions.

Colorado, despite an awful start–and bunch of resistance from Cal–held on to beat the Bears, 61-58 and advance to the tournament semifinals against USC on Friday night.

“You got to figure out a way to win when you don’t play
your best, we did that tonight, and we weren’t at our best,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “And again Cal had a lot to do with that and I’ve got great respect for what Mark Fox is doing. They have had a rough year in terms of wins and losses, but, man, they have been in every game and tonight’s another example.”

“They didn’t give up and they made it hard on us.”

Remarkably, in the 23 years of the Pac-12 Tournament, only two 11th-seeded teams have managed to win games–Washington State last year against Colorado, and Cal in their opener on Wednesday also against Stanford. Given that, being 11th in the Pac-12 isn’t a harbinger for success, and it wasn’t again Thursday. After both teams waited an additional hour to hit the floor while USC and Utah battled through two overtimes, a sloppy game broke out. In the end, the Buffaloes’ defense reigned supreme, as they held Cal to 38 percent shooting and stopped leading scorer Matt Bradley dead in his tracks.

With Bradley shadowed by 6’3″ master defender Eli Parquet–along with a host of others providing double teams–Cal’s leader missed his first six shots as the Buffs built a double-digit lead with 11:41 remaining. Bradley would find some light down the stretch and finished with 10 points, but Colorado’s strategy was a success: take Bradley away, and force his teammates to respond, which never really happened.

“They trapped him on ball screens on the wings as well, and so we went to some isolations for him, and I thought that a couple times we didn’t come, on the pass out we didn’t come meet the ball,” coach Mark Fox said of the defense against Bradley. “I think that he finally got a little bit of rhythm in the second half. I probably played Matt… 38 minutes last night was a lot… and in hindsight I probably should have tried to save a couple minutes on him last night because I thought he looked a little fatigued today.”

“But I won’t be critical of our players. Execution in that situation wasn’t as clean as we wanted, but I thought our intent and our decision was the right way.”

Cal led for the game’s first 16 minutes after a 7-0 start to the game. But the Buffs missed good looks as often as Cal forced bad ones, best referenced by McKinley Wright IV’s poor start in which he missed six of his first seven shots. Once Jabari Walker converted a 3-point play, and 7’0″ Dallas Walton surprised everyone with a 3-point shot on the ensuing possession to put the Buffs up 20-16, they took control.

Cal trailed 61-52 with a 1:05 remaining, and then managed a desperation run in which Jalen Celestine scored six, quick points and Makale Foreman could have tied the game with a 3-point shot with five seconds to go. But Foreman ‘s shot bounced away and third-seeded Colorado survived.

“That’s his shot, he hits that shot all the time and when I see it I thought it was going to be good, obviously it didn’t go in but he shoots that shot all the time and that’s a shot that we like for him to take,” Grant Anticevich said of Foreman’s attempt to tie the game.

The Bears finish the season 9-20, their third 20-loss campaign in the last four years.

Bear Trap: Cal upsets Stanford at the Pac-12 Tournament again, wins 76-58

By Morris Phillips

At some point during Cal’s unprecedented 10-day break bridging the regular season and the Pac-12 Tournament, some teaching went on.

Coach Mark Fox, mindful of his team’s glaring defensive deficiencies, got demanding. Fox taught, the players learned, physicality was introduced, and at some point knowledge turned to belief for the conference’s lowest-seeded team.

“A teacher is only a good teacher if the students learn,” Fox said. “And obviously I did a terrible job of teaching our defense this year because it’s been awful. Tonight is what it should look like all the time.”

On Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Stanford found out first hand what had been learned in Berkeley. In a stunning reversal, Cal shut down the Cardinal on the interior, and answered two, lopsided losses to their rival with a wire-to-wire 76-58 upset win.

The 11th-seeded Bears (their lowest seeding ever in the Pac-12 Tournament) controlled the glass, didn’t get burned in the paint, then coupled that with a patient, and efficient offensive showing that was easily their best in a disjointed season that saw them lose 19 games. After Stanford ate Cal alive in the paint to the tune of 84 points combined in the two regular season meetings, the Bears muscled up and pushed back.

“We didn’t rebound it very well the early part of February, and slowly our rebound numbers have been improving,” Fox said of Cal’s 31-22 edge on the glass. “They bought into it, and I thought it carried over to the game today. We played very physical on the backboards today.”

Cal scored the game’s first six points and never looked back. They lead by as many as nine in the first half, and by six at the break. With Stanford showing some resolve, the Cardinal creeped to within one at 52-51 with 6:08 remaining. After Cal’s Joel Brown inexplicably missed a layup, Stanford gained possession looking for their first lead. But Matt Bradley blocked Lukas Kisunas’ shot and Ryan Betley freed himself for a 3-pointer at the other end. That started Cal’s 24-7 finishing run that saw them win going away.

“He’s known for doing that,” Andre Kelly said of Bradley’s rejection at the rim. “He’s an ultra competitor. He does that in practice all the time so it’s nothing special to me, but for you guys to see it is something cool.”

Bradley didn’t start in a move Fox declined to discuss. But the team’s leading scorer entered early and went on to lead Cal with 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. Kelly contributed 12 points, nine rebounds and Betley hit some timely daggers in a 13-point performance he squeezed into 16 minutes of floor time.

Jaden Delaire led the sixth-seeded Cardinal with 14 points, and Michael O’Connell and Oscar da Silva each had 12. Da Silva, the two-time, first team All Pac-12 performer suffered a leg injury previously and missed eight of his 12 shots. Ziaire Williams was unavailable due to a family matter in Los Angeles which means the Stanford freshman who is a presumed NBA lottery pick this summer may never face Cal as a collegian. Williams missed all three games this season between the schools.

This was only the fifth time the two Bay Area rivals have met in 23 conference tournaments, and the odds of them meeting in consecutive tournaments are less than 3 percent. Couple that with Cal’s win and last year’s 63-51 upset of Stanford, and the Bears truly grabbed a piece of rivalry history with the double play.

The Bears advance to a quarterfinal meeting with third-seeded Colorado on Thursday at 8pm.

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Pac 12 Tournament tips off Mar 10th; Cal a long shot

Oregon Ducks guard LJ Figueroa (top) goes for the throw down as Cal defenders Ryan Betley (left) and Andre Kelly (right) could only watch during the last regular season game on Sat Feb 27, 2021 at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley. Cal will face Stanford in the Pac 12 Tournament in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Center on Wed Mar 10, 2021 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 Morris, one consolation about the Cal Bears season (8-19) the Pac 12 Tournament will be their last hurrah for the 2020-21 season.

#2 Let’s talk about some of the players who shined and had some good games during the season for Cal we’ll start with the very popular Matt Bradley who finished the season with 18.4 points per game average

#3 The Bears Andre Kelly finished in second in average season scoring with 10.4 not the biggest overall season number but Kelly did help out with some games this season.

#4 For head coach Mark Fox looking past the Pac 12 Tournament he should have a busy off season recruiting.

#5  The Bears are in Vegas on Mar 10th and will face Stanford do you see any outside chance the Bears could make this an interesting game although their long shots for advancing in the Tournament.

Morris Phillips covered the Cal Bears men’s basketball team for the 2020-21 season and will return next Monday for the San Francisco Giants podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears podcast with Morris: Cal can’t close out season with win against Ducks; Prepare for Pac 12 Tournament next

Cal Bears struggled to get some offense going but struggled in both halves of their contest against Oregon Ducks on Sat Feb 27, 2021 at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley (Cal Athletics photo)

Morris on Cal Bears basketball podcast:

#1 Morris, final game of the regular season on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion a frustrating loss to end the season for the Cal Bears (8-19) against a very good Oregon Ducks (16-5) team 74-63. Like you said in your headline the Ducks did harass Cal all night long.

#2 Cal did play hard and were focused but the Ducks dominated both halves and from the beginning you get the sense Cal would have a long night trying to keep up with Oregon.

#3 Although Cal had four players in double figures those figures were low scoring from Ryan Betly (13), Matt Bradley (12), Andre Kelly (12), and Jarred Hyder (10).

#4 The Bears (8-19, 3-17) last place finish in the Pac-12 comes with an alarming distinction: among Power 5 conference schools (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) only Boston College will finish the season with a lower power rating. Boston College at ranked 261 while Cal ranked 246.

#5 Its off to the Pac 12 Tournament for Cal’s next game on March 10th at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas and Cal gets one more chance to shine how does head coach Mark Fox prepare for this tournament?

Join Morris for Cal Bears coverage at the Pac 12 Tournament starting March 10th at T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips Mon Mar 1, 2021 by Sports Radio Service | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Ducks harass mistake-prone Cal, win 73-64 in regular season finale

(photo from calbears.com)

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The most bizarre–and challenging–regular season of Cal Bears basketball has come to a close. Unfortunately, there was nothing far out and strange about Saturday’s loss to Oregon at Haas Pavilion.

In fact, it was more of the same: Cal played hard, and played focused, but we’re simply outclassed by the Ducks in a 74-63 decision.

LJ Figueroa led Oregon with 20 points, 14 rebounds, and five steals as the Ducks scored the game’s first four points and led start to finish, and by as much as 19 points in the second half. Eugene Omoruyi had 21 points, and Chris Duarte, 17 for the Ducks, who have won seven of eight.

“He definitely was the difference in the game,” UO coach Dana Altman said of Figueroa. “His activity defensively, early boards, I thought he was really good. Thought he played his tail off and did some really good things.”

Figueroa did a little of everything, but his work as the point man in the Ducks’ aggressive zone kept Cal’s offense from finding any rhythm as referenced by their paltry total of 14 assists, with eight of those coming from the two guys Cal most needs to score, not facilitate, Matt Bradley and Grant Anticevich. When Figueroa wasn’t disrupting Cal’s attack, his steals led led to a decisive 27-11 edge for Oregon in points off turnovers.

“Those easy baskets they get really impact your defensive numbers,” coach Mark Fox said. “I thought our half court defense finally looked like it did a year ago, but the turnovers, the easy baskets were really the difference in the game.”

Fox admitted that the season began with his coaching staff concerned that their point guard play might be lacking, and as the season turned to conference play, Pac-12 opponents forced the issue on a nightly basis. The Bears saw the majority of their opponents build a wall at the 3-point circle and severely limit Cal’s dribble penetration leading to tough perimeter shots or turnovers. The Ducks, with the smallish, quick lineup may have been the best at it, as they again stopped Cal at the point of attack as they did in an easy win in Eugene in January.

Bradley was made to suffer the most, as Cal’s leading scorer finished with 12 points and four turnovers. Ryan Betley led Cal with 13 points and Andre Kelly added 12. The Bears trailed 34-27 at the break after shooting 39 percent from the floor. Their shooting improved to 52 percent in the second half, but they still fell behind 70-51 before an 8-0 run with three minutes left brought some respectability.

The Bears (8-19, 3-17) last place finish in the Pac-12 comes with an alarming distinction: among Power 5 conference schools (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) only Boston College will finish the season with a lower power rating according to current Real Time RPI rankings. The Eagles, who fired coach Jim Christian mid-season on February 15, currently rank 261 out of 347, while Cal comes in at 246. What’s really disturbing is the company Cal keeps with them finishing far lower down the Division I ladder than the worst Power 5 teams typically finish with North Carolina A&T (11-10 in the MEAC) one spot ahead of Cal, and Manhattan (6-11 in the MAAC) one spot behind.

“It’s been a tough year to have a tough year,” Fox said of a season where his team has been isolated from other students, their campus environment and even themselves (only once did the team dine together in what was a socially distanced meal held outdoors) along with the mounting losses.

Fox is hoping that his team’s spirits will improve with fans and their parents present for the first time this season at the Pac-12 Tournament starting March 10. But even then, the players won’t be able to interact with their families due to COVID-19 protocols, limiting them to friendly waves and blown kisses from the arena floor into the stands.

And while several conference teams, including Oregon, play makeup games to cover for the season’s numerous postponements, the Bears must wait 12 days for the inevitability that they will at some point suffer their 20th and season-ending loss in Las Vegas.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Cal can’t win on the home floor either; Tipped by OSU 59-57

The Cal Bears forward Andre Kelly (right) puts the pressure on the Oregon State Beavers center Roman Silva (left) in the first half of the Beavers and Bears game at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley on Thu Feb 25, 2021 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 Cal (8-18) who suffered another loss their tenth out of their last 11 games this time in close fashion to the visiting Oregon State Beavers (12-11) on Thursday night 59-57.

#2 Michael did you think it would get worse after they lost in Seattle to a struggling Washington Huskies (5-19) team on their last road trip last Saturday?

#3 Cal had a good first half taking the lead at intermission 33-28 they were getting some good defense and the Beavers just couldn’t covert enough to keep up going into the locker room five points down.

#4 In the second half the Beavers outscored Cal by seven and it was Cal who couldn’t keep the defense up and to make matters worse a tough loss on the home floor.

#5 Cal hosts it’s last game of the regular season against the Oregon Ducks (15-5) on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion the Ducks have won seven of their last eight games. The Ducks in their last game against Stanford (14-10) won on Thursday night 71-68 how do you see this last home game for Cal against Oregon on Saturday night.

Michael Duca did the Cal Bears basketball podcasts for the 2021 season and will do the San Francisco Giants podcasts mid March for http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca Fri Feb 26, 2021 by Sports Radio Service | Free Listening on SoundCloud

Bears go cold after halftime and lose 59-57 to visiting Oregon State

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The last time Oregon State won at Haas Pavilion before Thursday night, President Obama lent relevance to the occasion with a good-natured phone call of congratulations.

Flash forward 12 years, and this time, no one was present to feel the Bears’ pain.

After pulling within two points of a tie, Cal went the final 94 seconds scoreless in an aggravating 59-57 loss to OSU.

Roman Silva scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime, and Ethan Thompson added 12 as the Beavers broke a nine-game losing streak in Berkeley, and beat Cal for the third time in a season for the first time since 1989.

Cal made its first seven shots of the ballgame and led 14-2 only to see OSU seize control with a 9-0 run to start the second half. The Bears shot 28 percent after the break, and missed 10 of their 11 3-point attempts as Matt Bradley, who finished with 20 points (14 after halftime), became their only reliable option with the game on the line.

Still coach Mark Fox pointed to his Bears’ defensive liabilities which allowed OSU to enjoy 38 points in the paint and mask an 0 for 10 showing at the 3-point line.

“It’s the defensive possessions in the second half that were the difference in the game,” Fox said. “We did not defend to the level that you need to to win.”

In 2009, then OSU coach Craig Robinson called for a pivotal switch in the second half to a trapping, full court press that befuddled Cal in a 65-61 loss. After the game, Robinson–Michelle Obama’s brother–received a call of congratulations from brother-in-law Barack Obama from the White House. This time, the teams played in an empty gym as mandated by COVID protocols and the only cheers were the self-congratulatory ones emanating from the OSU bench as Cal committed turnovers on both of their final possessions.

“We do good in spurts and stuff like that, but I think if we can finish games strong and have success, we’ll be okay.” said Andre Kelly, who finished with 15 points but conceded that his defense was subpar.

The Bears (3-16, 8-18) assured a last place finish with Thursday’s loss and they will open the Pac-12 Tournament as the 11th seed on March 10 matched against the sixth-seed. Arizona will not participate in the conference tournament as part of their self-imposed penalties surrounding recruiting impropreties that resulted in the imprisonment of former assistant coach Book Richardson.

The Bears conclude their home schedule on Saturday night when Oregon visits. The Ducks defeated Stanford 71-68 at Maples Pavilion.

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: It’s as bad as it gets as Bears shoot for 27% against Huskies Sat nite

The Cal Bears guard Matt Bradley (left) drives on the Washington Huskies guard Erik Stevenson (right) during first half action at Alaskan Airlines Arena in Seattle on Sat Feb 20, 2021 (AP News photo)

On the Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 The flight from the state of Washington for the Cal Bears (8-17) was only two hours but it had to feel like eight as Cal got served up another cold dish of rough basketball in their loss to their standings neighbors the Washington Huskies (5-17) in Saturday night’s 62-51 loss at Alaskan Airlines Arena in Seattle.

#2 The loss pretty much assures that Cal will finish in last place in the Pac 12 for this season. The Bears will need a miracle as they have two more games left at home.

#3 The Bears suffered their worse shooting performance of the year 27 percent and lost the game by 31 points. The Huskies turned up the defense and Cal just couldn’t hit their shots.

#4 Quade Green led the Huskies in scoring with 17 points and Jamal Bey followed up with 15 points on an offense that gave Cal fits all night.

#5 The Bears return home on Thursday night to close out their regular season facing Oregon State (8-17). Saturday Feb 27 will be their last game of the season at Haas Pavilion against the Oregon Ducks (14-4) third in the Pac 12.

Morris Phillips has podcasted Cal basketball for the 2021 season

 

Ice Cold Cal comes up empty in 62-51 loss at Washington

By Morris Phillips

If awful shooting at Washington State didn’t get the job done, even worse marksmanship at Washington wasn’t going to cut it either.

Call it Cal’s easily forgotten weekend in the Northwest, one that almost assures that the Bears will finish the Pac-12 regular season in last place.

The Bears fell 62-51 to UW Saturday night, shooting a season-worst 27 percent from the floor, two nights after they shot 36 percent in a 31-point loss at Washington State. After fighting back to trail just 45-42 with 9:07 remaining, the Bears failed to make a basket over the game’s final eight minutes.

“When we got back initially, we didn’t have the poise to seize the moment,” coach Mark Fox said. “You can’t miss 10 or 11 free throws, the shots on the floor, and win on the road.”

Quade Green led the Huskies with 17 points, and Jamal Bey added 15 as the Huskies celebrated senior night with a pre-game ceremony and by welcoming fans into Hec Edmondson Pavilion for the first time this season. Governor Jay Inslee’s “Healthy Washington” edict just announced on Friday allowed 200 family members and friends of the UW program to provide a vocal presence at one of nation’s oldest on-campus arenas.

The Huskies (5-17, 4-13) had dropped four, consecutive home games. They also lost to Cal in Berkeley, 84-78 on February 9.

“Our defense was better tonight against them,” Washington coach Mike Hopkins said. “I thought there was some really good post defense. We did a good job on their 3-point shooters, knowing where they were, taking away their space.”

What Hopkins’ described in positive terms for his Huskies, was characterized more negatively by Fox. While the Bears’ coach liked his team’s movement on offense and play execution, the shots didn’t fall. Shaking up the starting lineup seemed to motivate Grant Anticevich and Andre Kelly, who came off the bench. But the play execution and motivational tactics couldn’t keep Cal in the game.

“I thought Andre really responded well, gave us a double-double,” Fox said. “I thought he answered the bell. I thought Grant was more active tonight.”

Matt Bradley led Cal again with 13 points, but he missed 13 of his 16 shots. Anticevich missed 11 of 15, Ryan Betley and Makale Foreman both missed four of five.

Joel Brown was a late scratch for Cal due to swelling in his Achilles.

The Bears were even at 10, but then they trailed 24-14. They would go on to trail for the game’s final 29 minutes, and by as much as 14 (42-28).

The ensuing 14-3 run for Cal was as good as it would get… all weekend.

The Bears (8-17, 3-15) return to Haas on Thursday to face Oregon State. They’ll see Oregon on Saturday. Both games start at 7pm.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Washington State demolishes Cal 82-51; Williams coverts 32 for WSU

Noah Williams of the Washington State Cougars drives towards the hoop against four Cal Bears defenders. Williams was top scorer with 32 points on Thu Feb 18, 2021 at Pullman WA (WSU photo services)

On the Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 After the Cal Bears (8-16) had a huge victory over the Colorado Buffaloes last Saturday things turned for the worse at Washington State and the Cougars had their way with a convincing 82-51 win on Thursday night.

#2 Matt Bradley led the way in scoring for the Bears with 16 and Andre Kelly followed up with 10 points and both were the only ones in double figures.

#3 No way Noah Williams of the Cougars had 32 points no way because there was no way the defense could have shut him down as Williams worked his way through the Cal defense even in the paint.

#4 Michael when you see someone like that having his way with the defense would it have helped if head coach Mark Fox had double teamed Williams?

#5 It’s onto Seattle and the Washington Huskies (4-17) who have lost seven of their last eight games and the Cal Bears have lost nine of their last ten games both teams clash on Saturday at 7:00pm at UW.

Join Michael Duca for the Cal Bears podcasts each Friday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com