Rising early: Cal beats North Carolina in Wilcox’s head coaching debut

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September 2, 2017 – Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA – Patrick Laird (28) of California celebrates after scoring a touchdown for the Golden Bears. The North Carolina Tar Heels hosted the California Golden Bears at the Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday, September 2, 2017. California won 35-30. (Credit Image: © Fabian Radulescu via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

By Morris Phillips

California football went from great mystery to great debut in just over three hours.

Unexpected? By any measure.

From the financial issues surrounding the California athletic department to all the unknown among the team’s personnel and coaching staff, topped off by the East Coast opener timed to start for breakfast in Berkeley, the Bears put all the uncertainty to the side with their surprising performance, surging after halftime in a 35-30 win at North Carolina.

“There’s going to be so much off the tape that was far from perfect, it’s never going to be quite as good as you want it, but man it feels good in that locker room right now and I’m just really, really proud of our team, the players, our coaches, our university, our fans,” new Bears’ coach Justin Wilcox said. “It’s just a great moment.”

Ross Bowers led Cal offensively, throwing for 368 yards in his first collegiate start. Bowers also authored the game’s signature play, a screen pass off a scrambling escape that put the ball in Patrick Laird’s hands on a 54-yard pass and run that gave Cal the lead after they trailed for the majority of the firtst half.

Bowers threw a touchdown pass in each of the four quarters, along with to interceptions, the second of which set up the Tar Heels to regain a 24-21 lead, after a 73-yard return by Andre Smith, at the conclusion of the third quarter.

But Cal rebounded with two touchdowns in the fourth to take control, the second on a Vic Enwere run giving the Bears a 35-24 advantage with 1:56 remaining.

While Bowers was a consistent force throughout the four quarters, UNC quarterback Brandon Williams completed just 7 of 16 passes for 60 yards, then saw his afternoon shortened after throwing a second interception in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt played as well, and finished 18 of 28 for 161 yards. Both quarterbacks seemed constrained under the platooning dynamic, but may have been limited to a greater degree by UNC’s ineffective receivers who failed to create separation from Cal’s defensive backs.

Not only did Cal’s secondary hold up, its defense as a whole held up, maybe the afternoon’s biggest surprise given that the Cal defense allowed 40 points a game in 2016, and didn’t gain any significant, new personnel. The 30 points allowed, including a meaningless touchdown in the game’s final seconds, stood as the fewest points Cal had allowed in a road game since 2015.

 

 

 

 

Perrantes, Guy lead No. 12 Virginia past upset-minded Cal snapping school-record, home winning streak

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By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–In a game this close, this low-scoring, experience and shot making often spell the difference.  Those two factors weighed heavily for No. 12 Virginia on Wednesday at Haas Pavilion as they squeezed past upset-minded Cal, 56-52.

Senior London Perrantes provided the experience for the Cavaliers with his smart decisions with the ball and 14 points, three assists. Freshman Kyle Guy contributed the shot making with nine of his game-high 17 points in the game’s final 6:12, not including the critical assist to teammate Isaiah Wilkins, whose layup with 1:02 remaining gave Virginia the lead for good.

California coach Cuonzo Martin said of Guy, “we knew coming in that he was a talented player that makes tough shots down the stretch.  I thought we played good defense, but he just made better shots.”

With the loss, Cal’s school-record, home winning streak came to an end at 27.  The Bears lost for only the third time in 27 non-conference, home games under Martin.  In a game of runs and surges, the Bears didn’t have an answer to Virginia’s final push.

“It went down to the wire,” Martin said.  “We had some costly turnovers and lost some momentum.”

“You knew it was going to be physical, I told our guys this was going to be a good, old-fashioned knuckle-buster,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.  “That’s what we called it, and that’s really what it was.”

For Cal, their fortunes fell squarely on their three most prominent players, starting with pre-season All-American Ivan Rabb.  The 6’10” forward stayed out of foul trouble, playing a season-best 38 minutes while grabbing a game-best 12 rebounds.  But while facing persistent double teams in the post, and manning a smaller lineup minus 7’0″ center Kingsley Okoroh down the stretch, Rabb fought all the physical battles while attempting just four shots and finishing with nine points.

Jabari Bird, in just his fifth game since returning from injury, led Cal with 15 points, but he needed 15 shots to get there. Overall, the Bears struggled from distance, missing seven of their first eight 3-point attempts, and 18 of 23 for the game.  With Virginia’s physical defenders pushing the Cal offense further out on the floor, the missed shots from distance came back to haunt the Bears.

And while Virginia’s freshman guard, Guy, excelled, Cal’s Charlie Moore did not, missing 11 of his 14 shots with four turnovers.  Martin described Moore’s night as a learning experience for the freshman who projects as one the team’s most prominent players going forward.

“Charlie, as talented as he is, was going against a senior, and all you can do is learn by playing against better players,” Martin said. ” He’ll begin to understand what it takes and how to take care of the ball, attack the ball screens, push through the game.”

Turnovers keyed Virginia’s 12-2 run early in the second half that put them up 40-31 with 12:31 remaining.  But Cal answered right back with a 9-0 run to tie it, setting up the close, tense final minutes.

There were 11 ties and eight lead changes in the ballgame.

Perrantes, the former Los Angeles prep star, and the only California-reared player on the Cavaliers’ roster, played in front of 30 friends and family in the stands.  The senior was a familiar face to Cal players and coaches, his 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds of overtime last year at Charlottesville stood as the decider in that game.

GAME NOTES: Leon Powe, Richard Midgely and Omar Wilkes were among the Cal basketball alumni in attendance.

The Bears open conference play a week from Friday at home against Pac-12 contender No. 18 Arizona.  Virginia opens ACC play on December 28 at No. 11 Louisville.

 

Cal shoots poorly and falls short to Seton Hall on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor

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By Morris Phillips

Ivan Rabb was off his game, Jabari Bird needed help, and the Bears came up just short at Pearl Harbor on Wednesday.

Bird’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer would have tied it, but Seton Hall survived 60-57 after they broke open a close game with 12 minutes remaining.

The loss dropped Cal to 7-2 on the season as they split a pair of games at Pearl Harbor’s Bloch Arena.  On Wednesday, on the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Bears and Pirates played before more than 2,000 service men and women.

Seton Hall improved to 7-2 on the season, and captured an important, resume building win.  The Pirates were led by Angel Delgado with 16 points and 12 rebounds.  Desi Rodriguez added 15, and Khadeen Carrington 14 for Seton Hall, the Big East entrant that also was a NCAA tournament qualifier along with Cal in 2015.

The Bears shot 43 percent from the field for the game, but more pointedly, they missed too many threes and squandered too many opportunities at the free throw line.  Along with Bird’s miss at the buzzer, Cal missed 13 of 16 three-point attempts.  They also missed 10 of 18 free throw attempts, and failed to take advantage of Seton Hall’s similar struggles at the stripe (9 of 20).

Bird led the Bears with a game-best 22 points, and freshman Charlie Moore added 12, but no other Bears scored in double figures.  Rabb played 30 minutes, but seemed to struggle with a wrist injury, finishing with 8 points and 8 rebounds.

The Bears led by three at the half, and were even with the Pirates with 12 minutes to go after Carrington’s three tied it.  But Seton Hall scored the next seven points of the game, and never trailed again.

The Bears return to the mainland and Haas Pavilion on Saturday for a matchup with Big West opponent UC Davis.

Cal Advances Into NIT Quarterfinals For First Time Since 2000 With 75-64 Win Over Arkansas

Photo Courtesy Cal Bears
Photo Courtesy Cal Bears

By Kahlil Najar

In a battle between a two and three seed, the California Golden Bears held off the feisty Arkansas Razorbacks 75 -64. Ca was led by Jabari Bird who scored 19 points and David Kravish who tossed in 13 points and snagged eight rebounds . Tyrone Wallace poure in 16 points and Senior Justin Cobbs scored 9 in his final game at Haas Pavilion. The Bears now face top-seeded SMU this Wednesday in Dallas.

The Razorbacks didn’t start strong today but came back late in the second half when they went on a 20-7 run but was ultimately stopped by the Bears. Arkansas’ Rashad Madden was the start of the night for the Razobacks as he has 15 points and five rebounds. Freshman phenom Bobby Portis started off by scoring the Razorback’s first eight points and ended with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Cal started off fast thanks to Cobbs who was controlling the tempo early and had half of Cal’s points five minutes in the game. The Razorbacks made it tight when the brought the lead down to five but then the Bears went on a 16-0 run and were up 31-8 with under five minutes left in the first half.

In the second half, the Bears were ahead by 21 points with 15 minutes left to play but then the Razorbacks got their own hot streak when they went on a 20-7 run and brought the lead all way down to eight but Cal’s  Wallace was able to make four free throws and Cobbs got a well timed basket and gave the Bears their first visit to the NIT quarterfinals in 14 years.

 

TEAM NOTES

· With tonight’s 75-64 victory over Arkansas, the Bears have reached the NIT quarterfinals for the fourth time in school history. Cal is now 14-6 all-time in the NIT.

· Cal’s 15-point halftime lead tonight was its largest at the break since it led Furman 43-25 at halftime on Dec. 28

· The Bears shot .55.3 percent from the field, their highest clip since Jan. 18 against Washington State.

PLAYER NOTES

Senior Guard Justin Cobbs

· With six assists, moved into a tie with Jerome Randle for second place on Cal’s all-time list with 524 in his career

· With nine points Monday, now has 1,451 in his career. Cobbs is in 11th place on Cal’s all-time scoring list

Freshman Guard Jabari Bird

· Scored 19 points, the second-highest total of his career and most since scoring a career-high 24 vs. Oakland on Nov. 15

· Set a career-high with eight rebounds

Junior forward David Kravish

· With three blocks, now has 72 blocks this season, building on his own single-season record For his career, Kravish has 176 blocks, which ranks second in school annals.

Freshman guard Sam Singer

· Dished out a career-high five assists

 

Michael Duca and Morris Phillips on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca and Morris Phillips

BERKELEY–The thing about Cal facing Creighton and losing last weekend in that non conference game is that loss won’t help them as we approach the NCAA Tournament on whose going to go and who isn’t. Cal head coach Mike Montgomery knows there’s not that many opportunities in the non-conference to make them last.

When the Golden Bears went to Maui and lost to Syracuse 91-82 November 26th Syracuse is ranked number two in the nation right now but they weren’t ranked number two when Cal played them after raking up a few more wins. The Bears didn’t beat Syracuse and they didn’t beat Creighton that will hurt them come selection time.

As far as the Bears next opponent Furman is concerned whom they play at Haas on Saturday they won’t give Cal much of a battle that will be the final non conference game for the Bears and they will see Stanford on January 2nd at Maples Pavilion to open their first conference game in the new year.

The Bears best game in non conference play was the game against Oakland which they won 64-61 the team from suburban Detroit that was in Berkeley on November 15th that game went down to the last two minutes. Oakland went onto do some almost wonderful things.

The Bears also took Michigan State down to the end of the wire that game was played at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. Non conference basketball is where you don’t want any slip ups like losing to someone your not suppose to lose to because people will come and hurt you come selection tme.

The NCAA will select someone whose in the top 40 who will hurt you, especially since Cal comes off that loss to Creighton which is disappointing and you’ll see them bounce back pretty well. The Bears are in Stanford Jan 2 and you don’t want to open the conference season with a loss and Cal hasn’t had much success at Maples lately. The Bears have lost the last three or four in Maples.

The Bears have won at Stanford only once since Montgomery was the coach the win was in his first year it’s a tough place to play for Cal. Montgomery doesn’t get much a of reception down there any more even though he was a great coach at Stanford for many years and they’re going to have to deal with Stanford and their size. If anything we know that Stanford doesn’t shoot the ball well all the time and hopefully Cal can take advantage of it.

Morris Phillips covers the Cal Bears with Michael Duca for Sportstalk Radio

Michael Duca on Cal basketball

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What you want to do is construct a schedule that challenges your team and give it the opportunity to give it different kinds of looks. What a way for Cal (8-3) to rack up a win over the Fresno State Bull Dogs (6-5) an 11 point victory on Saturday night at Haas with a 67-56 victory. It’s silly the way you can beat non-conference teams like this but this is the way you get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

Getting there you need to play North Carolina, Duke, Michigan in the pre season and it really doesn’t matter who else you play you can play 11, 12, 13 non conference games and you want to make sure you win most of them and you want to be sure your team is challenged a little bit in the process. 8-0 at home is good, they lost three away from home not so good but that’s how Cal constructs their pre conference schedule so that their almost entirely at home.

 

The interesting thing is a lot people are wondering how Cal would be this year without Allen Crabbe, without a two time Pac 12 player, who was a good shooter, a good scorer who left early for the NBA and is intimately acquainted with the bench up in Portland now. The answer is their doing just fine the Bears are not relying on just one guy to score for them now their spreading that scoring all around.

 

The Bears had six players in double figures earlier this week against Nevada and three of those players came off the bench. You like to have an eight man rotation that has eight guys that can score in double figures and so Saturday night against the Bull Dogs the Bears spread the scoring around quite as thickly but you did have two guys with double figures in rebounds from Richard Solomon and David Kravish both.

 

One night Justin Cobbs comes and gets you 25 points and the next night he gets eight or nine assists so Cobb can find different ways to adjust his game to what needs to be done on the floor. The conference games will be starting soon enough and there are a lot of very good teams in the Pac 12 this year. Washington is always a tough team for Cal, Oregon is a nationally ranked team, UCLA is a nationally ranked team Arizona is a top ranked team.

 

You have just a variety of squads in the Pac 12 that could give anybody fits on any given night and Cal is always going to struggle when they go to places like Utah or Colorado because of the altitude. It’s going to be a very competitive conference, it will not surprise me Cal in the top second tier after Arizona and UCLA who will be right up there with Oregon.

 

The Cal Bears Tyrone Wallace you look at him on the floor and you think he’s a tweener and it’s the same position that former Bear Patrick Christopher used to play he has the scoring ability to rebound like a power forward with Kravish and Solomon and with that many rebounds to be gathered in right around the bucket and paint he is one of those guys like Kravish was a couple of years ago who has a nose for the ball. I don’t know if Wallace studies and scouts down the other team but he’s got a playbook in his mind where to go on the floor.

 

Michael Duca covers the Cal Bears for Sportstalk Radio each week

Cal hopes for redemption at Colorado

By George Devine, Sr.

After a 62-28 loss to USC in this year’s last game at Berkeley, the Bears hope for their first Division I win of the season at Colorado, kicking off at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 16.

The Buffaloes lost their 14th straight Pac-12 game and are 0-6 in conference this year (3-6 overall), bringing up the rear in the South division as Cal (0-7, 1-9) is in the North division cellar.

The Colorado loss was to Washington, 59=70. Huskies are now 6-3/3-3 and bowl eligible. Leading the charge for the Buffs against Cal will be WR Paul Richardson and running backs Tony Jones and Christian Powell. On defense, ILB Addison Gillam will give the “Bear Raid” offense trouble, despite the chemistry achieved this year between Cal QB Jared Goff and wideout Kenny Lawler, a fellow freshman.

Following the game at Colorado, the Bears will go to Stanford for the annual Big Game, this year on Saturday, November 13 at a time TBD.

Michael Duca on Cal football

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–What was it that there are only 14 players on the Cal Bears squad from the last two years recruiting classes. You can not say that this is a Mother Hubbard situational where the cupboard was left totally bare but it wasn’t left Golden Bear that’s for sure.

The Bears are a work in process and I’m not sure it’s a work in progress but the Bears hope it is the spread offense the Bears knew from that Holiday Bowl a number of years ago that Cal couldn’t defend against and apparently based on going against the spread offense in practice every week their defense is pretty depressed about that whole concept.

The Bears have not been aggressive and their going to have to be on the defensive side of the ball, the offensive line is young and needs to develop and Jared Goff is their number one quarterback for the next number of years and he’s very well suited to the system, very well suited to the school, he had a full year of credits under his belt before he played his first game.

The Bears don’t have any issues on that side Brandon Bigelow has to develop a little bit more as a running back and that comes from the line developing ability to run block and in particular to pass protect it seems to me like I’ve seen Goff make a number of freshman like decisions out there on the field and it’s often because three or four non distinctly non freshman like human beings are trying to pulverize him.

One thing that people really don’t understand about the transition this why I kept focusing on the offensive line when I was talking is that former Bears head coach Jeff Tedford played pretty much a standard pro sets scheme and in that scheme your line blocks straight ahead or zone blocks within arms reach of you. When your playing the spread it’s not about zone blocking and it’s not about blocking straight ahead it’s about gap control.

It’s a whole different way of thinking about the offensive line responsibility it’s a whole different way of thinking of neutralizing defense in particular when you consider how inexperienced Cal’s own defense is it’s hard to imagine and being a very good scout team to train that offense in running the spread.

The last word on Cal is they have no place to go but up.

Michael Duca covers Cal football for Sportstalk Radio

Michael Duca on Cal football

by Michael Duca

BERKELEY–One reason why the students at Cal Berkeley are walking around here with their mouths open after the loss to Oregon State which is not very polite by the way they were completely unprepared for the fact that Oregon State plays pretty good football in their 49-17 win.

Sean Mannion the Beavers starting quarterback was another reason why the students left with their mouths open he’s the leading quarterback not only in the Pac 12 he basically the FBS 1-19 highest rated quarterback in the country he came in the Cal game with the top quarterback rating.

Mannion could deliver the long ball, he can deliver the short ball, he’s got a nice touch, I’m sure that somewhere in between stacking poker chips and just saying how high three million dollars is former Bears head coach Jeff Tedford has to wondering how he missed this kid.

Mannion put in a good day’s work considering he was not paid for it, we can sit here and rag on the Bears all you want, you have to remember this is a team that has lost seven of the 11 original starters on defense, six to injuries, and one due to dismissal from the team. The Bears lost their best defensive end, they lost their best linebacker, they lost their best cover cornerback, they lost their best safety, and they lost their best defensive tackle.

Not only have they lost a ton of players and of course if you lose seven your going to lose some tough games automatically. On the defensive line if your rated the players one, two, three and four they manage to lose one player. It’s been a very hard season for the Bears over at Strawberry Canyon.

Bears quarterback Jared Goff couldn’t find the handle on the football a couple of times he got separated from the ball after a couple nasty hits. They took him out in the fourth quarter as much as anything else to make sure that his confidence didn’t get destroyed by being out there and being punished.

Honestly for the rest of the year I just see only one game out of the remaining six on the schedule that they have that they might have a shot at to compete and have a fighting chance to win it and it’s against Colorado. The Bears are going up to Washington against the Huskies a team that’s jockeying for position in the Pac 12 and will be overladen with emotion because long time head coach Don James who passed away at the age of 90 on Monday morning.

James’ entire family will be out on the field at Husky Stadium Saturday as part of the opening coin toss and you know that stadium is just going to be rocking.

Michael Duca covers Cal Bears football each week for Sportstalk radio