Arizona Uber Alles: No. 3 Wildcats rude guests in runaway, 96-71 win

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Cal fans showed up, and Coach Mark Fox left early. Talk about both being out of character.

No. 3 Arizona has a way of leaving opponents, and others, twisted. The Wildcats are that good, that devastating, reference their wire-to-wire, 96-71 win on Sunday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.

“If you look at the completeness of their team with multiple bigs, terrific shooting, an outstanding wing, depth, they are playing like the best team,” Fox admitted. “Their margins of victory.. like today was obviously big, but that’s what it’s been. They’ve been dominant.”

Arizona (16-1,6-0) hit the gas so quickly, skid marks could be seen near the Haas entry ways. They led 17-3, 34-16 and 46-26 a minute after Fox lost his composure, drawing a second technical and an ejection. Cal’s Jordan Shepherd missed his first seven shots, and the Bears misfired on five attempts from distance, part of 7 for 30 shooting to start that left them in a big hole.

“It’s what you hope for on the road, that you come out and from start to finish your team is solid and they execute the plan,” first-year Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “We did a really good job of dictating what they were doing on the offensive end, and then on our end of the floor getting into our movement.”

Talent? The Wildcats have it abundance. Their top eight scorers–with Bennedict Mathurin (17.3 ppg) leading, and Pelle Larsson (6.4) trailing–are all capable of big scoring nights, when needed, on demand. Against Cal, Mathurin struggled (3 of 9 from the floor) as Christian Koloko took over the paint (19 points, 13 rebounds) in the absence of 6′ 11″ Azoulas Tubelis, Arizona’s second leading scorer. Larsson got a turn in the starting lineup and was impressive on both ends. He finished with nine points and two assists in 21 minutes.

Cal’s shrewd plan to get Shepherd going from the perimeter first to then provide space for Andre Kelly and opportunities for Grant Anticevich was immediately foiled. Arizona’s length at the guard spots and quick feet defensively bothered Cal like 16 Wildcats opponents were bothered before.

With assistant Chris Harriman directing the club, the Bears benefitted from Arizona’s careless ball handling to open the second half, but the visitors’ transition game kicked in and Cal trailed 66-40 with 12:56 remaining.

Shepherd led Cal (9-10, 2-6) with 21 points, rebounding from his scoreless start. Kelly and Makale Foreman added eight points each.

The Bears have dropped five straight, three straight at home, with three, tough road games to follow. The Bears have yet to win a road game this season, losing all four to date.

UCLA looms as Cal’s next opponent on Thursday, the Bears’ opportunity to display all the wisdom gleaned from a 60-52 loss on January 8 in Berkeley. The problem is the No. 9 Bruins aren’t coming off a three-week break due to COVID this time, and are unlikely to start sluggishly playing at home.

WE STAYED. COACH YOU HAVE TO STAY TOO: All season, coach Mark Fox has wanted to combine his team’s hustle and flow with an intimidating, loud Haas Pavilion atmosphere. COVID has disrupted his plans, from the canceled and rescheduled games to the stringent vaccination requirements for fans in the building.

Sunday’s gathering of 7,582 represented a breakthrough for attendance this season, despite the hastily arranged gametime layered on top of some pretty, compelling nationally-televised NFL games. But when the game turned lopsided soon after it began, the fans never got a chance to make their presence felt.

Fox had his hand on the proceedings, but he let the referees get involved contrary to the coach’s better judgment.

“My frustration wasn’t just about tonight. My frustration was (about) some things that built up to it,” he said. “The official decided, like in third grade, to instigate a staring contest and, like in third grade, I took the bait and got my second technical and put our team in a tough spot.”

Fox picked up his initial technical two minutes before the second. Afterwards, he framed his actions as positive, saying “if I have to lead the fight, sign me up.”

Others might say his actions weren’t a sign of leadership. Regardless of how his actions were perceived, he’s got two bigger issues, only one that enhances his future in Berkeley: he’s maintained team unity and focus under the most trying of circumstances, but Fox has not reached the baseline for recruiting in a conference driven by talent as much as exemplary coaching.

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears in the Southland on Thursday to face tough nemesis UCLA; Cal looking to end 5 game skid

Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) Arizona’s leading scorer with guard Kerr Kriisa (25) share a handshake at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley defeating the Cal Bears on Sun Jan 23, 2022 (photo from the Arizona Wildcats)

On the Cal basketball podcast:

#1 Morris from wire to wire the Arizona Wildcats (16-1) were just having their way with the basketball and the Cal Bears (9-10) for a 96-71 win. On offense Benedict Mathurin led the Wildcats in scoring. Mathurin like most of his teammate was getting some nice chances today.

#2 On the Cal defense frustrating getting them to stop the Wildcats inside game hence the kind of success led by Mathurin getting his way on many of his shots.

#3 Morris during the game you mentioned Jordan Shepherd had a tough time getting out of the gate he eventually led Cal in scoring but for most of the game was the only player in double figures.

#4 Morris, talk a little bit about the Cal offense try as hard as they may guys like Andre Kelly and Joel Brown were in single digits for most of the game and Arizona knew about guys like these to shut their game down.

#5 Cal head coach Mark Fox got a pair of technicals and ejected from the game talk about the ejection and how much that impacted Cal’s game.

#6 It’s back to the drawing board for Cal as it’s onto the Southland and the UCLA Bruins (13-2) on Thu Jan 27th at Pauley Pavilion. The last time Cal faced the Bruins in Berkeley on Jan 8th the Bruins were the clear winners 60-52. After getting a dose of the Wildcats on Sunday can Cal come back and make a game of it on Thursday night?

Join Morris Phillips for the Cal Bears basketball podcasts at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca: Cal hopes to put an end to four game losing streak Sunday against Arizona

The Cal Bears will really have to be on their A game on Sun Jan 23, 2022 against the Arizona Wildcats at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley and Wildcats’ Azuolas Tubelis their leading scorer (Arizona Sports file photo)

On the Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael:

#1 Michael it’s a tall order game’s at home at Haas Cal Bears (9-9) are coming off a four game losing streak and host one of the Pac 12’s hottest teams the Arizona Wildcats (14-1) No.2 ranked in the nation on Sunday at noon.

#2 In preparation of the game Cal head coach Mark Fox will be pushing what are some of the things that he’ll need to push against Arizona?

#3 Arizona in their last game crushed the Utah Utes (8-9) 82-64 the Wildcats have been getting great offense help from leading scorer Azuolas Tubelis who scored 32 points to Arizona to the win over the Utes.

#4 Cal will be really leaning on their key offensive scorers in this one Grant Anticevich, Jordan Shepherd and Andre Kelly can they help against the rugged Arizona defense?

#5 All week long it’s been Arizona this and Wildcats that and Cal virtually has been left out of the conversation is there any chance the Bears can change that momentum on Sunday?

Join Michael for the Cal basketball podcasts Thursdays and Morris Phillips Mondays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Morris Phillips: After four straight loses Cal faces one of the Pac 12’s toughest teams in Arizona Sunday

California forward Lars Thiemann (21) and Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye (35) go for the ball in Sat Jan 15, 2022 contest at Pullman (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 Morris after winning five in a row the Cal Bears (9-9) has now lost four in a row what’s been the difference in the change?

#2 How tough has it got to be for the Bears after losing the two games to USC (14-2) and UCLA (11-2) and then losing twice again to Washington and Washington State Cal head coach Mark Fox works hard to prepare this team.

#3 Looking at Cal’s last game in Pullman 65-57 against the Washington State Cougars (10-7) on Saturday night the Bears had the lead after the half but couldn’t hold it were the Bears just pressing too much in second half?

#4 We know you mentioned it in your recap that Cal guard Joel Brown who just got out of Covid 19 protocols after a seven day quarantine got to Pullman from Berkeley on a flight and played just a minute. After being away that amount of time from playing did Brown come into the game pretty rusty?

#5 Cal now will host one of the toughest teams in the Pac 12 the Arizona Wildcats (14-1) at Haas Pavilion on Sun Jan 23rd for a noon tip. The Wildcats just manhandled their last opponents the Utah Utes (8-9) in Tucson 82-64. How do you see the Bears approach to fending off the Wildcats this Sunday?

Morris Phillips does the Cal Bears podcasts each Monday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Rough Road: Cal comes up short after halftime again, loses 65-57 at WSU

By Morris Phillips

The road trip that causes the most headaches in the Pac-12 starts in Seattle on a Thursday and leaves you feeling unsettled in Pullman, Washington on Saturday afternoon.

Bad weather, rough flight, slick roads and a quirky opponent in a mostly empty arena throw you off balance, and likely the Washington Huskies shook your confidence as well. Conference ballclubs aren’t at their best after going through the Northwest curveball machine.

The Bears were the latest testees who survived the first half, but finally slipped late in the second, losing 65-57 to Washington State. Cal was swept for the second weekend in a row and had issues trying to score in all four losses. On Saturday, coach Mark Fox was disappointed with the team’s rebounding, and not limiting the Cougars’ opportunities.

“I think it’s the third game in a row on the road where we had the lead at the half and we talked about trying to close it and finish it, and we just didn’t defensive rebound,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “We forced some misses, we gave up a rebound on free throw that cost us three.”

The back breaking sequence came with 2:52 and WSU’s Michael Flowers at the foul line shooting one-and-one. Flowers missed the first one but WSU rebounded and swung the ball to Flowers for an open three that he buried, extending the lead to five.

“We just didn’t do the right things to close the game in the second half,” Fox said.

Cal scored just 10 points after Andre Kelly got them even at 47 with 9:19 remaining. Flowers contributed 11 of his 13 points in the second half, and Andrej Jakimovski paced the Cougars with 18 points.

In seven of Cal’s nine losses–and three of the last four games–they’ve scored 60 points or fewer.

Cal starting guard Joel Brown attempted to fly from the East Bay to Pullman on Saturday morning after he cleared COVID restrictions that left him home isolation for seven days. Brown arrived after the game started and played just one minute when it became apparent he couldn’t ramp it up after a week without physical activity or basketball.

“You just take a roll of the dice and say, ‘Is it going to be like he can just step in here and we keep rolling?'” Fox said. “And you can tell he wasn’t ready and out of synch and understandably so.”

Shepherd led Cal with 17 points, Kelly had 12 and a season-best 14 rebounds.

The Bears return home to Haas Pavilion to face No. 6 Arizona on January 23 at noon.

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca: Bears drop their third straight game to Huskies at Alaskan Airlines 64-55 Wednesday

The Washington Huskies Terrell Brown Jr (23) exults after teaching the Cal Bears a lesson about defending him. Brown led the Huskies in scoring with 21 points at the Alaskan Airlines Arena in Seattle on Wed Jan 11, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 The Washington Huskies (7-7) Terrell Brown was well defended by the Cal Bears (9-8) on Wednesday night in the first half of the game and came back scoring 18 of his 21 points in the second half.

#2 Brown led the Huskies in just impressive offense he worked the inside to get shots, worked the boards and wasn’t afraid to take the outside shot.

#3 For the Bears It seemed like anyone that head coach Mark Fox put out on the floor was getting extinguished everyone finished in a single digit except Jordan Shepherd who scored 12 points.

#4 The Huskies led Cal by seven at the half and got the win by 66-54. In both halves of the game the Huskies and Brown just out hustled Cal every step of the way.

#5 Cal will be at it again when they try to get back in the win column against the Washington State Cougars (9-6) at Pullman which could be a very tough place for the Bears to try and snap a three game losing streak.

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

Huskies Find Clear Sledding: Washington’s big run carries them past Cal, 64-55

By Morris Phillips

No, Alaska Airlines Arena wasn’t the place to find a pair of polished products on Wednesday night, but for either Washington or Cal, making a noticeable step in that direction was a reasonable goal.

Put together 40 minutes of cohesive basketball, find bursts of offense from a defensive-minded group, and beat a vulnerable opponent on the road?

Apparently, the Bears aren’t quite ready to do that just yet.

Washington rode a late, 15-0 run, largely fueled by referee whistles that didn’t favor Cal, to a 64-55 win, proving the hosts are closer to competency within the challenging Pac-12 landscape.

“Our defense wasn’t as good,” coach Mark Fox said of the decisive second half that saw Cal outscored 37-21. “We turned the ball over another eight times in the second half. And we couldn’t score.”

The Bears didn’t start well either. They missed eight of their first 12 shots, and committed seven turnovers in the first 12 minutes. The Huskies better navigated the early minutes with a balanced attack that only needed two points from leading scorer Terrell Brown Jr. A steal and breakaway dunk from Daejon Davis put UW up 21-13 at the 8:09 mark.

Cal was without starting point guard Joel Brown who was not with the team, and left back in Berkeley with an undisclosed illness. Jarred Hyder started in Brown’s place. Sparkplug Sam Alajiki returned after missing the previous, two games, and Kuany Kuany returned to the starting lineup after playing in reserve against UCLA. Fox called Kuany’s one-game demotion a teaching moment.

Aided by reserves Alajiki, Jared Celestine and Lars Thiemann, the Bears found their groove in the final minutes of the half. A 10-1 run gave them the lead, and they didn’t stop there. The visitors built a seven-point, halftime lead, and briefly led by nine to open the second half.

At that point Brown turned it up a notch, and brought the crowd’s energy with him. The Seattle native responded with 18 of his 21 points after the break, apparently the result of his coaches and teammates getting him in the right frame of mind during earlier timeouts.

“Everybody kept giving me confidence,” Brown said. “Coach Hop told me to play basketball. They’re going to junk it up, but you can junk it up too and find different areas to attack. It was just me playing free.”

Cal clung to a lead until eight minutes remained, but the 15-0 run wiped them out, leaving them in a 62-51 disadvantage with 3:37 left. Within the run, Kuany drew a flagrant foul call for having his arms horizontal, not vertical, after securing a rebound, but contacting P.J. Fuller’s face trying to avoid being stripped. That led to a pair of made free throws, and possession for Washington. They maxed that with Brown’s flashy spin and jumpshot that left Kuany flailing and the crowd howling with pleasure.

“His feet kind of just left him and I’m watching the ball go up in the air and I see it rolling around and I’m like, ‘that’s going in.'” Davis said of Brown and Kuany’s viral moment.

The Bears managed just one more made basket in the final minutes–from Shepherd with 16 seconds left–and never really made noise. The ending seemed surreal because the Bears disappeared so completely.

Cal attempted just five free throws, a season low, and leading scorer Andre Kelly took seven shots and was limited to four points.

“There were some guys in uncomfortable positions,” Fox said. “That’s the hand we’re dealt right now. We’re going to have to figure out how to play without a couple guys.”

Cal concludes their Northwest swing in Pullman against a talented, high-scoring Washington State team on Saturday at 1:00pm.

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Morris Phillips: After two straight loses to LA schools Cal looks to pick up the pace in Washington Wed night

California guard Jalen Celestine (32) shoots against UCLA guard Tyger Campbell (10) at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley on Sat Jan 8, 2022 (AP News photo)

On the Cal Bears basketball podcast with Morris:

#1 It wasn’t much of a contest as the Cal Bears (9-7) went down to defeat for the second time to a LA university this time to the UCLA Bruins (10-1) 60-53 a eight point win as the Bruins controlled the offense from wire to wire.

#2 Once again Cal guard Andre Kelly did most of the heavy lifting coming away with 22 points. Kelly executed inside the paint and had a multiple dunk show with one displaying some hang time but regardless Cal came up short.

#3 Morris, knowing what the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins would bring in this week to Haas Pavilion it really wasn’t a surprise for Cal head coach Mark Fox but from what you saw did the Bears leave that best effort out on the floor this week.

#4 The Bruins had two players in double figures with heavy NBA potential guard Tyger Campbell with a team leading 17 points and coming right behind him guard Jaime Jaquez Jr with 14 points to contribute to the Bruins tenth win of the season.

#5 It’s off to Seattle and the Washington Huskies (6-7) in Cal’s next contest. The Huskies have won four of their last eight games and got a six point win over the Utah Utes (8-7) 74-68 on Thu Jan 6 in Utah. Morris after getting a double dose of loses this week the Bears are certainly looking to get back in the win column in their visit to Washington on Wed Jan 12th.

Join Morris for the Cal Bears podcasts each Monday morning at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

No Margin For Error: No. 5 UCLA too stingy for Cal’s tastes, Bears fall 60-52

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Coach Mark Fox stalked the sidelines, pestered the refs, incited the Haas Pavilion crowd, and as always, had the full attention of his team, but in the end, Fox had to tip his cap.

Visiting UCLA just brought too much to the table.

In a defensive struggle, the No. 5 Bruins simply were too stingy, and wore Cal down in their 60-52 victory.

“There’s no shame in laying it out there against the best teams and falling short. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure,” Fox said. “We failed today, but these kids competed in a way that I was really pleased with.”

The Bears had success defensively, limiting UCLA to 60 points and a horrible night shooting from three (4 for 18), but in the game’s waning moments Cal’s resolve lessened and a pair of Bruins were left wide open to hit back-breaking, 3-pointers. Johnny Juzang’s three put UCLA up 55-43 with 3:28 remaining.

And how did Cal’s big effort defensively come to such an unsightly finish? Probably the result of climbing uphill all night, trailing for the game’s final 23 minutes, and realizing UCLA’s defense, which forced 15 turnovers, wasn’t going to relent.

“We’ve got to stop other teams from scoring,” UCLA’s Cody Riley said. “When we come out, we’re not always going to make shots. We can’t rely on making shots. It’s the defensive side where we win the ballgame.”

Riley’s presence in the paint was a welcome sight for his teammates, who fashioned an unlikely trip to the Final Four last spring without him due to injuries. With him, Cal was made to suffer as two of their top three scorers, Grant Anticevich and Jordan Shepherd, were harassed into horrible shooting nights. The attention paid to Anticevich and Shepherd allowed Andre Kelly the space to make 11 of his 14 shots, but a one-man show isn’t the precursor to an upset. For the most part, Cal was denied entry into the lane, and their 1 for 14 shooting from three did little to compensate for their lack of easier baskets.

“I knew that we were going to take Cal’s best shot because I know what Mark Fox is made of and I know how upset he was with their defense Thursday,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “They gave up 50 points in the paint (versus USC). They were minus-38 in points in the paint. I can only imagine their film session and their practice yesterday. So we told our guys it was going to be World War III. We were probably going to have to grind it out. We do a good job at taking care of the ball. We’re top 10 in the country in that. It gives us a chance. Eventually we knocked down some shots.”

Tyger Campbell, the orchestrator of UCLA’s attack finished with 17 points, four assists. Jaime Jaquez, Jr. contributed 14, and Riley added 9. Juzang missed seven of his 10 shots, but buried the big 3-pointer late to make his 3 for 10 shooting more impactful.

Trojans Brought Their Horse: Undefeated USC stops Cal’s streak at Haas, wins 77-63

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–That rust enveloping the USC Trojans–built up over nearly three weeks following their last game on December 18–dissipated rather quickly.

The Cal Bears, hoping to catch USC out of sync, soon found themselves being dismantled by the visitors, with each, successive possession and after timeouts. Conceding too many opportunities on the glass, and bleeding points in the paint, the Bears were worn down in their first home defeat, losing 77-63.

“They’re good, and we have to play better to beat a great team,” coach Mark Fox admitted.

Cal started fast, holding their own in an uptempo start that saw the lead exchanged nine times in the first ten minutes. But it soon became apparent that the surprisingly disciplined Trojans were stout as advertised. First, USC showed unexpected proficiency at the foul line, converting 11 of their 13 attempts. Then the visitors controlled the glass (39-24 rebounding edge) and attacked the basket relentlessly (50-14 edge in points in the paint). Cal aided USC by shooting just 41 percent from the floor for the game, and sprinkling in some glaring, empty possessions.

“We felt like we gave the game away,” said Grant Anticevich, who led Cal with 19 points. “Credit to USC. They are a top-10 team for a reason. But we just made too many mistakes.”

“Once we started defending at a higher level, we took the lead,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Our defense in the second half was outstanding.”

Isaiah Mobley led the Trojans with 19 points, and Drew Peterson added 17. Boogie Ellis, the transfer guard from Memphis, had 14.

Jordan Shepherd scored 17 points, and Andre Kelly came up with 13 points, 11 rebounds, but the Bears got almost no secondary help. Starters Kuany Kuany and Joel Brown were factors defensively, but failed to make a shot from the floor, far less than what was needed to aid Cal’s upset bid. Jalen Celestine scored 10 points off the bench but could have played a bigger factor were it not a couple of questionable decisions with the ball in his hands.

Cal trimmed their deficit to 54-50 with 9:20 remaining only to see the Trojans surge again and regain their double-digit advantage. What started on the defensive end incorporated high percentage shooting as USC shot 64 percent after halftime.

“We made some positive plays,” Fox said. “We just didn’t threaten enough in the second half.”

MISSING MATT?: In an interesting comparison, the Cal transfer that has many saying “what if?” Matt Bradley has already seen USC this season. Bradley opted to forgo his stature as Cal’s go-to guy, transferred to San Diego State, and his Aztecs faced the Trojans in the Paycom Wooden Legacy Championship Game in Anaheim on November 26.

It didn’t go well for Bradley.

The Trojans’ length and singular focus on getting Bradley stopped, paid off as the 6’3″ guard was limited to three points in 25 minutes on the floor. Bradley shot 1 for 7, including 0 for 4 from three.