Red Box Bowl/Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears feel an advantage playing in Bay Area; Illinois no push over have beaten two big schools

photo from sf49ers.com: Red Box Bowl at Levis Stadium will host the Illinois Illini and the Cal Bears on Mon Dec 30th

On the Red Box Bowl/Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 At the Red Box Bowl presser on Friday Cal head coach Justin Wilcox and the players were in a great mood

#2 How good does it get for Cal having the Bowl game set in the Bay Area against the Illinois Illini did Wilcox or any of the players address having to play the game in the Bay Area.

#3 In talking with Cal quarterback Chase Garbers quite a year certainly wants to end his season with a win at the Red Box Bowl

#4 Last season the Bears played at the Cheez It Bowl in a game they lost to TCU 10-7 it was kind of a sleeper but being the in Bay Area and the Illini being a good team this could be a shoot out

#5 Coach Wilcox says turnovers can’t be the rule of the day as the Illini took advantage using seven turnovers to upset Wisconsin and win at Michigan State in their two marquee wins.

Morris is a Cal Bears beat writer and does the Bears weekly podcasts each Monday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Cal’s Comfort Zone: Bears at home in the Redbox Bowl in more ways than one

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Last year the Cal Bears played awful and were the brunt of jokes. This year, they seem to have the hang of this bowl season thing. Team captain Jake Curhan showed as much, by setting ground rules for the Redbox Bowl press conference at the outset.

“Before we begin real quick: Nikko, Cam and I are really excited to join our teammates on Alcatraz, so respectfully we’re going to be pretty efficient with our answers, and we would appreciate the same from you guys. Thanks.”

A year ago in Phoenix at the Cheez-It Bowl, the Bears were one-half of a turnover fest, throwing five interceptions in a 10-7 overtime loss to TCU that left the Chase Field crowd and the television audience shaking their collective heads. The Horned Frogs kicked in four interceptions of their own in a game that no one wanted to win–in regulation–leaving the decision to an overtime period that brought out social media trolls in droves.

This bowl season, the Bears are in their backyard, playing good football coming in, and looking healthy for Monday’s kickoff at Levi’s Stadium against Big Ten opponent Illinois. A matchup of Cal’s vaunted defense against a team that lost it last two while scoring just 10 points in each game seems favorable.

Coach Justin Wilcox knows turnovers can’t litter the landscape at Levi’s. Illinois (6-6) thrives on them, using seven turnovers to upset Wisconsin and win at Michigan State in their two marquee wins.

“You go into a game playing with great ball security. So we want to play with really, good habits,” Wilcox said. “Possessions will be a premium in this game.”

Wilcox lifted Garbers after throwing his third interception against TCU. That put the ball in Chase Forrest’s hands, and he threw two more picks, including the most damaging one in overtime. Forrest was thrust into the fire, seeing his first, significant time in his five-year Berkeley career. This season, Garbers is in control, throwing just three picks in 184 pass attempts. More importantly, Garbers has rounded into a winner, posting a 6-0 record this year and 12-2 in his career when he starts and finishes the game.

Besides a healthy Garbers, the Bears (7-5) have regained their health and depth on the offensive line, and they figure to cover for their one significant, personnel omission, injured safety Ashtyn Davis, by utilizing their secondary depth, the team’s most impressive unit.

Wilcox said Elijah Hicks will see time at safety against Illinois, with the possibility that corner Cameron Bynum will also see time there as well.

Illinois received good news on the injury front when quarterback Brandon Peters was cleared for action after suffering a concussion against Iowa, which forced the Michigan transfer to miss the Illini’s season-ending loss to Northwestern. Of course, Peters will have his hands full dealing with Cal’s All-American linebacker Evan Weaver and fellow linebacker Cameron Goode, who is coming off two of the most impressive outings of his Cal career.

“His body’s changed, as you probably noticed he gained 25-30 pounds. I think that helped him to be to sustain the season and be able to withstand the rigors of a full season. He’s worked hard at that. And I still think Cam’s best football is front of him. He’s a talented kid,” Wilcox said of Goode.

 

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca: Bears have lost four of last five look to get in win column Sat vs. Harvard

calbears.com photo: The Cal Bears Kareem South (10) takes a fade away shot against the Boston College Eagles defender Julian Rishwain (2)

On the Cal Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 The game was close but the Bears just couldn’t pull the trigger losing to Boston College Eagles by four 64-60 at Chase Center in the City last Sat Dec 21

#2 The Bears came away with a first half lead but it was that second half that the Eagles came away with a 38-31 second half enough to do the trick for the win.

#3 Talk about the job that the Cal Bears Matt Bradley has been doing for the club leading consistently in scoring last Saturday with 21 against Boston College

#4 Cal head coach Mark Fox also has been looking also been putting his confidence in scorers Kareem South and Lar Thiermann.

#5 The Bears next up face the Harvard Crimson (8-4) at Haas Pavilion on Sat Dec 29th. The Bears who are looking to get back into the win column after losing four of their last five games.

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

 

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears can’t keep up with Boston College; Will Illini-Bears match up be a close one for Red Box Bowl?;

photo from bearinsider.com: Matt Bradley (20) of the Cal Bears takes a shot against Boston College Eagles on Saturday at Chase Center in San Francisco at the Al Attles Challenge

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 On Saturday at Chase Center was the game against Boston College (8-5) a game that the Cal Bears (6-6) could have won in a 64-60 loss.

#2 The Bears had a chance to hold off the Eagles after leading in the first half the game slipped in the second half when BC outscored Cal 38-31.

#3 Playing at Chase Center was there a different feel a different vibe playing in a neutral site game for the Bears that might have played in their game.

# 4 Matt Bradley led the Bears with 21 points with nine rebounds and two assists he’s been big for Cal but they could have used more help on Saturday.

#5 The Bears now have lost four of their last five games and host Harvard next Sunday at Haas Pavilion

#6 Football: The Illinois Illini and Cal Bears on paper look like evenly matched teams you will have a chance to talk with both teams on Friday 27th at a presser in talking with Cal quarterback Chase Garber how much is riding on this game this Saturday. The Red Box Bowl at Levi Stadium is on Mon Dec 30th.

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

Bears blow an opportunity for a brighter Christmas, lose to Boston College, 64-60 in the final minutes

By Morris Phillips

SAN FRANCISCO–Travel-weary Boston College afforded the Cal Bears a fast start. The Bears in turn kept the door open, and allowed the Eagles a chance to creep back into the contest.

In the end, it wasn’t an even swap.

BC made the adjustments in their offensive attack, got nastier on the glass, and pulled out a much-needed 64-60 win over Cal at the Chase Center on Saturday. The meeting of struggling Power 5 conference teams went to the visitors from the East Coast and they couldn’t have been happier.

“In the second half, we played smarter,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said.

The Bears have dropped six of eight after a 4-0 start to the season. Christian and his Eagles won their fourth straight after losing five of six. Both teams craved a win, but Boston College kept the mistakes to a minimum down the stretch.

“I thought we were just settling for threes,” Christian said. “We were taking the first three available to start the game. We hit a couple early, which sometimes is a bad thing. In the second half we played really smart.”

Cal led by 12 early, then they went scoreless for the final seven minutes plus of the half, and saw their lead sliced to three at the break. They seemed to take control again leading 48-37 with 11:43 remaining. But their points in the paint, and transition opportunities slowed, and BC quietly creeped back in.

“You can’t play 34 or 36 minutes,” Coach Mark Fox admitted. “You have to play a great segment of quality minutes, and tonight we didn’t do that.”

Fox cited six missed free throws in the opening 20 minutes as a major factor in the loss. Those misses kept Cal from extending their double-digit lead, according to Fox, and that factored heavily into BC’s initial comeback.

Neither team accomplished anything of note from distance. Both teams missed eight of nine 3-point attempts before the half. Cal controlled the paint, getting strong, offensive games from Andre Kelly and Lars Thiemann. The 7’0″ center Thiemann enjoyed his best game in a Cal uniform eight points, nine rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. But Cal’s turnover count mounted (11 of their 16 turnovers came after halftime) and their shot selection deteriorated.

“I should have made sure we finished this game out–as captain and one of our leaders. That didn’t happen tonight. Obviously, I’m frustrated with myself,” said Matt Bradley, who led the Bears 21 points, but missed six of his seven attempts from distance.

The Bears now turn their attention towards their final non-conference contest against Harvard on December 29. Cal is trying to avoid a third, consecutive last place finish in the Pac-12, and they’ve now become the first conference school to lose six times this season.

Meanwhile, the conference continues to trend upward despite the top three programs–Arizona, Washington and Oregon–all losing to highly-regarded Gonzaga. While Cal has six losses, seven other Pac-12 schools have lost just once or twice, including Stanford, who won the opening contest of the Al Attles Classic against San Diego 62-59. The Cardinal are 11-1, their best start to a season in a decade.

CHRISTIAN’S ROUGH WEEK: BC coach Jim Christian hobbled up and down his team’s sideline on crutches with a pained look on his face, the aftermath of ankle microfracture surgery he had on Monday in Boston.

Christian conceded the cross-country flight to San Francisco was painful. He anticipated the flight back also will be agonizing.

The former Cornell coach retained his sense of humor however when explaining what led to the surgery.

“I injured my ankle in a dunk contest,” he said.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Gael forces to hand Cal their first home loss; Bears try to regroup against Boston Saturday

Photo credit: cbssports.com

On the Cal Bears podcast with Miguel:

#1 Just overwhelming as the Cal Bears were outplayed by the St. Mary’s Gaels on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.

#2 The Bears came into Haas undefeated at home this season, but couldn’t stop the Gales offensive evening, losing by 12 points for their first home loss.

#3 Two of the Gales forces that were just unstoppable were Jordan Ford’s 32 points and Malik Fitts’ 28 points, who led St Mary’s in scoring.

#4 Cal head coach Mark Fox said that St. Mary’s offense was very good and trying to shut them down proved difficult.

#5 The Bears will try to get back into the win column as they matchup against Boston College at the Al Attles Classic on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Chase Center in San Francisco.

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

Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Bears put on a show of resilience, but Gaels just too much on Saturday; Cal set for kickoff at Redbox Bowl

calbears.com photo: Cal’s Andre Kelly (22) had a hot hand against St. Mary’s forward Malik Fitts (24)  Kelly scored a career-high 26 points on Saturday night at Haas Pavilion.

On the Cal Bears podcast with Morris:

#1 On Saturday night at Haas Pavilion, the Cal Bears put on a exhibition of resilience when they attempted to come back and rally on the visiting St. Mary’s Gaels.

#2 Like you said in your article, the Gaels brought aggressiveness, experience and nerve to the table in their 11-point win over Cal Saturday.

#3 It was the first loss at home for this season for Cal. They have won five of six games at home and are 6-5 and winning at home against a complete St. Marys team was going to be a task.

#4 The Gaels are in the top 25 in the nation at 10-2. Needless to say, Mark Fox–head coach of Cal–called St. Marys a very good offensive school.

#5 Next up for Cal? The Golden Bears will be at the Chase Center in San Francisco this Saturday, Dec. 21st when Cal tips off against Boston College for a 2:30 pm matchup.

#6 Football: Cal kicks off against the Illinois Illini Monday, Dec. 30th at Levi’s Stadium for the Red Box Bowl. Talk about Cal quarterback Chase Garbers throwing against that Illini defense.

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

What’s New? Gaels are good, Bears are work in progress in St. Mary’s 89-77 win

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — Aggressiveness, experience and nerve–the Saint Mary’s Gaels brought so much of those elements through the Caldecott Tunnel on Saturday night, they probably needed two team buses to transport it all.

The Cal Bears were left to experience all three, to their detriment in a 89-77 loss. In a December filled with hard lessons, the Bears fell to 6-5 with all five losses by double digits, this one the first of the five at Haas Pavilion.

St. Mary’s–on the cusp of the nation’s Top 25 with a 10-2 record, but coming off a loss to notable mid-major Dayton–shot 54 percent for the game and led by 19 at one point. The Gaels hurt the Bears from distance, hitting nine 3-pointers in the first half, and 10 of 15 for the game. Leaving shooters open has been an issue for the Bears in their streak of five losses in their previous six games, and that didn’t dissipate against the Gaels, who lead the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at better than 44 percent.

“I felt like we got off to a very good start and then we let some offensive struggles impact our defense in the last half of the first half against a very good offensive team and we obviously can’t do that,” coach Mark Fox said. “Saint Mary’s shot the ball extremely well as we knew they would and we didn’t do the job defensively to slow them down.”

The game featured a trio of outstanding, individual performances starting with St. Mary’s senior forward Malik Fitts, who scored 21 of his 28 points before halftime. With the Bears deploying Juhwan Harris-Dyson on Fitts in the second half, his scoring slowed, but Jordan Ford’s surged. The St. Mary’s guard scored 25 of his 32 points after halftime, including a three with 4:32 remaining that re-established the Gaels’ double-digit lead, 75-64.

“It’s kind of a pick-your-poison type of deal. One of us is probably going to have a good game, hopefully both of us,” Ford said of Fitts’ performance and his own.

Andre Kelly put up a career-high 26 points for Cal, 20 of those after halftime as the Bears found a way fight back offensively, if not defensively. Kelly had success against St. Mary’s bigger post players, Mathias Tass and Aaron Menzies, so much so that coach Randy Bennett elected to go with reserve Dan Fotu for a long stretch. But with the game in the latter stages, Kelly got the ball in the post and was tied up by Tass with the held ball situation giving the ball back to the Gaels. That prevented the Bears from reducing a 70-60 deficit with 6:01 remaining.

The series between the neighboring schools separated by 11 miles and the East Bay hills concluded for now after games in each of the last three seasons. St. Mary’s captured all three–by double digits–but Bennett concurred that the Bears were much improved over the last two seasons in his comments after the game.

When pressed, both coaches had interesting takes on what it would take to continue the series in the future.

“We would like to protect some of these Bay Area games, but I can’t protect them all,” Fox said, citing the Pac-12’s increasing league games from 18 to 20 starting next season, which takes two non-conference games away. “That’s mathematically going to be impossible if we still want to play other people and grow our program.”

“I think it’s a game that if they’re good and we’re good, it makes sense,” Bennett said. “If either one of us aren’t good, it probably doesn’t make sense.

The WCC agreed to reduce the number of their conference games from 18 to 16 for their 10 members, which in part is how Cal managed to see all three Bay Area members–USF, St. Mary’s and Santa Clara–in the previous, two weeks. Bennett, who has seen a soft strength of schedule prevent two of his previous teams from making NCAA tournament appearances, loves the new arrangement. In the first year of the increase in non-conference opportunities, the long time Gaels’ coach has scheduled Dayton, Utah State, Wisconsin and Arizona State, all opponents that will catch the eye of the tournament selection committee.

The Bears resume their schedule on Saturday at the Chase Center in San Francisco against ACC opponent Boston College. That game is part of a quadruple header that will feature Stanford and St. Mary’s as well.

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca: Too much USF and Santa Clara; Bears glad to get back home against Fresno State

Photo credit: @CalMBBall

On the Cal Bears podcast with Michael:

The Cal Bears are unbeaten at home and are winless away from home. The Bears visited a couple of highly rated Jesuited institutions at USF and Santa Clara, but the Bears are back in the friendly confines of their home court at Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night.

They really played an entertaining game against the Fresno State Bulldogs and neither team held a seven or eight point lead at anytime in that game. It was back and forth for the whole evening and although the Bears wound up with a six-point win that was in doubt until the final minute.

Michael Duca does the Cal Bears basketball podcasts each Thursday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Bears Back In The Win Column: Back-and-forth game with Fresno State goes to Cal, 69-63

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, Calif. — Kareem South is just the type of player the Cal Bears need to get things turned around after two last place finishes in the Pac-12.

The Toronto native has size, smarts and a competitive streak that surfaces in tight ballgames. Not only that, South’s well-spoken after games–win or lose.

But the truth is the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi graduate transfer is here today, gone tomorrow, already 10 games into a Cal career that won’t last more than 35 games.

So, Wednesday’s meeting with visiting Fresno State was get it, or go without it for South. He chose get it, scoring 17 points and helping lead the Bears to a 69-63 win over the Bulldogs that had some tense moments late.

South did most of his scoring early with 15 of his 17 in the game’s first 30 minutes as the hot-shooting Bears led by three at the break, put couldn’t gain any separation from Fresno St. as the second half progressed.

South’s 3-pointer with 10:43 remaining put the Bears up 47-43, but they couldn’t pull away, establishing a pair of seven-point leads only to see the Bulldogs get within one, 59-58 with 3:38 left.

But the Bears responded with a 7-0 run that gave them their biggest lead if the night with 25 seconds remaining. Matt Bradley had four of his team-best 24 points in the closing stretch, sealing a nice bounce back for a team that had lost four of five, with all the losses on the road and by double-digits.

“Coach had certain aspects he wanted us to key in on, which was our defensive rebounding and playing sound and solid on the defensive end,” South said. “We also did a good job taking care of the ball and shot the ball pretty well.”

“We really locked in and got ourselves ready to play Fresno State, and I think tonight it showed We had a lot of confidence, and we were able to close it out during the last five minutes of play,” said Bradley, coming off losses at USF and Santa Clara that he personally was happy to put behind him. “I feel good about this win.”

When things got tight in the final minutes, the often stoic, coach Mark Fox implored the Haas Pavilion crowd to turn up the volume, sensing his x and o’s might not be enough against a credible Fresno State team.

“Our team is not battle-tested and they’re learning something new on both ends of the court,” Fox said. “We’re going to need our fans to stand up and break a sweat because this team has to overachieve.”

Fresno State lost for fifth straight game, the previous two in overtime. New Williams led the Bulldogs with 21 points, five rebounds, and Mustafa Lawrence added 16 off the bench.

The Bears next take the hardwood on Saturday hosting the St. Mary’s Gaels. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the Cal women, who host Santa Clara in the opener at 4:30 p.m.