Cal Shut Down: Utah comes up with season-best defensive effort in 60-45 win over the Bears

By Morris Phillips

When your best player makes shots winning comes easier. When that best player also shuts down the opponent’s main guy, winning is almost assured.

It was for Utah on Timmy Allen on Saturday at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes leading scorer came up with 14 of his team-best 20 points down the stretch, as well as shutting down Cal’s Matt Bradley in Utah’s 60-45 home win.

“I was just more strong today,” said Allen. “Just played without stress and played stress free, truthfully.”

Bradley led Cal with 13 points, but missed eight of his 13 shots. The Bears shot 32 percent from the field and scored 52 points or fewer for the sixth time this season. Cal’s leading scorer was the only Bear to finish in double-digits, starters Paris Austin and Kareem South combined to miss 15 of their 18 shot attempts.

“They were the aggressors and we didn’t finish enough plays,” said coach Mark Fox. “You have to score when you’re on the road and we didn’t do that tonight.”

The Utes improved to 10-1 at home in a season in which they’ve beaten Kentucky, Washington, Nevada and Minnesota, but have struggled to string wins together. One certainty is their play against Cal and Stanford: the Utes completed the home sweep of the Bay Area schools for the fifth year in a row.

“I thought we had a good game plan for both of the Bay Area schools, and I think we’ve made some good strides in our pick-and-roll coverage,” coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “Our bigs did a really good job. I thought our guards were really solid too.”

The Bears trailed by 11 at the half, and blew an opportunity to climb back in the game when the Utes missed eight of their first nine shots to start the second half. Instead, the Bears went cold, going scoreless for more than three minutes, and Utah seized control.

Cal’s 16 made baskets on just seven assists were both season lows for a Utah opponent.

The Bears return to Haas Pavilion on Thursday for a meeting with Arizona, then they’ll see Arizona State on Saturday. Both Arizona schools were home losers on Saturday with the Wildcats falling to UCLA, and the Sun Devils losing to USC.






Road Remains Rough: Cal suffers narrow loss at Colorado, falls to 0-9 away from home

By Morris Phillips

No. 24 Colorado didn’t like the way they played, but they were satisfied with how they finished in a 71-65 win at home on Thursday night.

Cal coach Mark Fox said he and his coaching staff would examine how they do things approaching road contests after dropping the first eight this season, but that didn’t change things at the CU Events Center. The Bears were tied at the half, and trailed by just two with 5:16 remaining, but fell victim to the Buffs late run.

“They sped the game up,” said Paris Austin, who had 15 points for the Bears.

“We found a way,” coach Tad Boyle said of his CU squad’s fifth consecutive win over Cal. “The sign of a somber locker room after a league win tells you that we have pretty high expectations of ourselves.”

For Cal, battling a ranked Pac-12 team in their environment in a game that was decided in the final minutes represented a sign of improvement. Of their nine road and neutral site losses, only a 64-60 defeat to Boston College at the Chase Center had been by single digits prior to this one. The Bears, coming off winning four of five at home, continue to improve, even if it doesn’t always show in the win column.

Matt Bradley led the Bears with 17 points, Andre Kelly had 12 on six of seven shooting. The Bears shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half–a season best–but couldn’t get keep the Buffs under wraps at the defensive end. In the final five minutes, Colorado was efficient and quick, scoring 19 of their 71-point total down the stretch.

Not familiar with the ascension of the Buffaloes? You’re not alone. Quietly, Boyle has fashioned a consistent contender in the Pac-12, and Thursday’s win matches the best 23-game start to a season in their program’s history, matching that of the 1968-69 Colorado team that won the Big 8. Sophomore Cliff Meely was Colorado’s star player that season, a power forward who would be named an All-American as a senior and a first round pick of the Rockets during the summer they moved from San Diego to Houston.

The Bears (10-12, 4-5) travel to Salt Lake City to face Utah on Saturday at 3pm.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Improved Golden Bears get another test in Colorado on Thursday night photo: Cal prepares for their game against the Buffaloes in Colorado on Thursday night

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca:

#1 Cal (10-9) played a close game against the Oregon Ducks (18-4) on Thursday losing by five points 77-72 Cal gave it their all and could have very well won this game

#2 Cal was coming off a huge win against the Stanford Cardinal (16-4) and then played a very close game against a nationally ranked team like Oregon speaks to the improvement of the team in just a short time after taking a ten point loss in UCLA

#3 Cal also hosted a much improved Oregon State Beavers (13-9) team and beat the Beavers by two points 69-67 in a game where it’s a two point difference it reflects that it’s a all team effort as oppose to relying on one guy

#4 The Cal numbers are improved on offense the Bears had four players finish in double figures against OSU including leading scorer Matt Bradley with 25 points.

#5 The Bears head to Colorado (17-5) to face the Buffaloes on Thursday night the Buffaloes are a tough customer can Cal head coach Mark Fox and the Bears keep it going in this style of basketball

Michael Duca does the Cal Bears basketball podcasts each Thursday at

Standing Firm: Big charge call in final seconds allows Cal to slip past OSU, 69-67

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–The youthful Cal Bears and their coaching staff didn’t know what to expect. After two, last place finishes in the Pac-12, a coaching change, and a roster with as many additions as departures, they knew they probally weren’t going to be great, and that they didn’t want to be last-place bad.

Whatever their destination, the Bears are starting to take control of the process, one game at a time.

“You just get addicted to the next game,” coach Mark Fox said after his Bears surprised Oregon State in the last game, making the winning plays late in a 69-67 victory at Haas Pavilion on Saturday.

Hardly on a last place trajectory, the Bears are finding ways to win (at home). Beating OSU evened Cal’s conference record at 4-4, good enough for a sixth-place tie with UCLA.

“To come out of the week with a couple victories for this group is progress,” Fox said. “But we’re just going to try to win this next one and see how many we can tally up.”

In winning four of seven–after losing six of seven–the Bears have improved dramatically at the defensive end while getting more varied contributions on the offensive end. Clearly an incremental process, all seven of Cal’s most recent victories are by seven points or less, the last three by 3, 2 and 2.

And what normally constitutes last minute heroics doesn’t apply at Cal: the Stanford game swung on a blocking foul and two made Paris Austin free throws. On Saturday, leading scorer Matt Bradley drew a charging call on Tres Tinkle with seven seconds remaining with the Beavers trying to grab the lead.

Looking for a critical basket or a momentum-changing dunk? There wasn’t one. Instead Cal turned a close game by limiting Oregon State to six points over the final 5:04. For the game, OSU shot 19 of 52, and missed 15 of their 20 3-point attempts.

For Cal, Bradley got it done by picking his spots, both on the floor and during junctures of the ballgame, scoring a team-best 23 points. Andre Kelly hurt OSU with his activity on the offensive glass, adding 14 points, six rebounds. Grant Anticevich contributed eight points and 11 rebounds.

Neither team created much separation as the game featured 11 ties and 13 lead changes. Tinkle spearheaded an 8-0 run for the Beavers to close the first half, but OSU didn’t sustain that surge with 32 percent shooting after the break.

Cal travels to No. 20 Colorado on Thursday looking to win their first true, road game after five losses.


Improved Bears take No. 11 Oregon to the wire in 75-72 loss

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–Two weeks ago, a visit from a ranked opponent would have resulted in a lopsided loss for the Cal Bears. On Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, No. 11 Oregon got all they could handle from the improving Bears in a 75-72 win that had the Ducks sweating in the final minute. How’s that?

The Bears, for one of the only times all season, showed a varied, effective offense that had them even at halftime and leading 52-45 with 11 minutes remaining. At that point, Payton Pritchard, arguably the Pac-12’s best player, took over and led the Ducks to a big win that keeps them at the top of the conference standings with a 7-2 record.

“I was trying to be aggressive right away.” Pritchard said of mindset starting the second half of a tied game. “We made a run there and made something happen.”

Pritchard led the Ducks with 21 points, long-armed, defensive whiz Chris Duarte added 19 and Will Richardson contributed 15. For Cal, Matt Bradley got hot in the second half, scoring 20 of his game-best 25 points.

Early on the Bears got the best of what freshman Lars Theimann has offered thus far in Cal career. The 7’0″ center made all four of his shot attempts, scoring eight points, that gave the Bears’ attack some inside-out balance. From outside, Bradley, Grant Anticevich and Kareem South combined to make nine 3-pointers.

In a game ultimately decided by just three points, the Bears will remember their empty possessions that resulted in 14 turnovers, and their lack of bench contributions with 70 of their 72 points coming from the starters. But for a team again trying to avoid the basement in the Pac-12, the effort may have been their best so far, and a clear sign the embattled group is sticking together, and showing some improvement.

In the end, Pritchard with his ability to drive, shoot and make flawless decisions along with the Ducks’ trapping defenses made the difference in a surprisingly close game.

Cal Bears podcast with Michael Duca: Can Cal top off the week with a win over Oregon tonight? photo: Cal Bears preview photo with Kareem South (10) ready to take aim as Cal hosts #11 ranked Oregon Ducks at Haas Pavilion on Thursday night

On the Bears podcast with Michael:

#1 The Cal Bears (9-10) defeated the Stanford Cardinal (15-4) it was a game played at Haas Pavilion even though the Bears had the home floor the odds were stacked against Cal and they pulled it out 52-50.

#2 Did Cal head coach Mark Fox had to pull out all the stops against a team like Stanford strategy wise?

#3 Cal went on a 17-2 run against Stanford and not only played catch up ball but the team really caught fire and proved the mind is a powerful thing were driven and won the game against an incredibly good school.

#4 Paris Austin proved to be a big help for Cal leading with 15 points and scoring two crucial free throws that got Cal the victory over the Cardinal.

#5 It doesn’t get any easier for Cal as they host the Oregon Ducks (17-4) at Haas on tonight

Join Michael each Thursday for the Cal Bears podcasts at


Cal Bears podcast with Morris Phillips: Cal’s impressive come back win against Stanford; Will it build confidence going forward?

Stanford’s James Keefe, right, shoots against California’s Grant Anticevich (15) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

On the Cal podcast with Morris:

#1 The odds were pretty slim going into Sunday’s game with Stanford (15-4) but the Cal Bears (9-10) pulled out all the stops and got a last minute win over the Cardinal at Haas Pavilion 52-50.

#2 The Bears were down and had to put a 17-2 run on Stanford and like Kareem South said the Bears had to keep on fighting.

#3 Talk about top scorer Paris Austin who led the Bears with 15 points looks like he either had the hot hand was the go to guy on the floor.

# 4 Matt Bradley did well in his own right scoring behind Austin with 14 points

#5 Does a win like this build enough confidence going into their next game against Oregon (17-4) on Thursday night at Haas Pavilion?

Join Morris Phillips every Monday for the Cal Bears podcasts at

Cal puts the squeeze on Stanford late, escapes with an improbable 52-50 win

By Morris Phillips

BERKELEY, CA–An upset realized despite the slimmest margin of error?

Yes, that would describe the Cal Bears’ unlikely, come-from-behind 52-50 win over rival Stanford on Sunday. For the Bears, the win provides a measure of affirmation in a season as trying as any. For Stanford, a damaging loss that knocks the surprising Cardinal out of first place in the Pac-12, and puts pause to their NCAA tournament hopes.

So how did Cal pull it off? Simply, they never wavered.

“We just kept on fighting,” said Kareem South, who contributed 13 points, including a pair of big buckets in the final five minutes. “And that was the result of the game. You know, we were down eleven at one point and, you know, credit to Stanford’s team, they’re a really good team. But we just kept on being physical and kept on fighting to the last play.”

With 12 minutes remaining, not only did the Bears trail 39-28 as South referenced, but they were on a lethargic point a minute pace that was established in their 50-40 loss at UCLA last weekend and continued unabated in front of their anxious crowd of 9,000 on Sunday at Haas Pavilion. Quite simply, not only were the Bears on their way to another sleepy loss but they were threatening to drive their fans batty with their inability to score.

Then everything changed in the bat of an eye, as the Bears put together a 17-2 run that gave them their first lead of the second half. And that just as quickly meant that a game that was being won by Stanford at the defensive end was now in Cal’s control courtesy of their defense.

“We started out the second very poorly defensively and then we didn’t finish a couple of plays,” coach Mark Fox said. “It took us several minutes to get it kind of locked back in defensively. So there’s some room for improvement there. You know, Stanford has a good team and they’re a hard team to guard. And we were fortunate to guard them well today.”

Over the final 12 minutes, the Cal defense proved subtly effective, harassing Stanford into seven missed shots and three turnovers while finally getting a handle of Tyrell Terry, the Cardinal’s high-scoring freshman guard. But just as pivotal was Oscar da Silva’s missed free throw with 1:16 remaining that would have allowed Stanford to regain the lead.

After Matt Bradley was errant on a 3-point attempt, Cal regained possession courtesy of Joel Brown’s steal. That set the stage for Paris Austin in the final seconds, who drove to the basket and drew a foul with three seconds remaining.

“We’re in the bonus and Paris had a hot hand,” Fox said. “I knew he could draw a foul and we could win the game at the free throw line. Fortunately, it worked out for us.”

Austin calmly knocked down both free throws, and Stanford failed to get a shot off in the game’s final seconds propelling Cal to the win.

For the fourth time this season, the Bears scored just 52 points. But instead of a double-digit loss, this time 52 points equaled a victory.




Bruins Got the Message: Quality defensive effort by UCLA shuts down Cal, 50-40

By Morris Phillips

This wasn’t by statistical measures a great defensive effort by UCLA, but the Bruins did draw a line that the Cal Bears weren’t capable of crossing.

That line came minutes into the second half when Cal’s final lead of the afternoon (25-24) morphed into an 11-minute scoreless drought that propelled UCLA to a 50-40 win at Pauley Pavilion.

During that painfully lengthy dry spell the Bears took shots and missed shots or took shots, rebounded, only miss more shots. 14 misses in all concluding with Matt Bradley’s short jumper that trimmed UCLA’s lead to 38-27 with 5:55 remaining.

The drought could be attributed to Cal’s season as a whole in which they’ve digressed, failing to make more than 35 percent of their shots in four of their last six games.

“When we’re not making the three, we have to find other ways to score,” Coach Mark Fox said. “We were not scoring. I have to give them credit. We couldn’t score in the paint.”

Or UCLA could be the culprit, still smarting from their first home loss to Stanford in 15 years on Wednesday, and having to hear coach Mick Cronin say some very disparaging words as a result.

“Our older guys are bad defensive players, which is really ridiculous because it’s not like they didn’t do scouting reports before me,” Cronin said following the Stanford loss. “If you’re in your fifth year, you should know how to play defense by now.”

The Bruins definitely got Cronin’s message. They didn’t win the rebounding battle or protect the basketball (13 turnovers) but they piled up the stops.

“We should have held them to a lot less than 40. We gave them a lot of layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance points,” said Chris Smith, who led UCLA with 17 points. “It was a decent defensive performance, but we could’ve definitely done better.”

Bradley led Cal with 17 We should have held them to a lot less than 40. We gave them a lot of layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance points. It was a decent defensive performance, but we could’ve definitely done better.”

After a rough weekend in Southern California, the Bears limp home with none of the momentum they built in beating both of the Washington schools. They’ll have a week to prepare for their rematch with Stanford, but that’s no cushy assignment. The Cardinal lead the Pac-12 with a 5-1 record and continue to prove that their one of the nation’s best defensively.

Cal Bears basketball with Michael Duca: After two straight wins can Cal take on USC in the Southland tonight? photo: USC head coach Andy Enfield, right, yells at forward Nick Rakocevic during the first half against UCLA on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion

Cal Bears basketball podcast with Michael Duca:

#1 Cal (8-8) has won their last two games that has to be a confidence building in this Pac 12 Conference schedule after the Bears lost the Pac 12 opener against Stanford to start conference play.

#2 The two last wins came over Washington State (10-6)  and Washington (11-6) schools with better records and better offense but Mark Fox has made some changes what changes have you seen by coach Fox.

#3 Coach Fox has said he does depend on scoring from Grant Anitcevich and Matt Bradley and they’ve come through in these last two games.

#4 One of the things that Anticevich brought up was the defense was getting better and better with each game.

#5 The real wake up call will be tonight at USC (13-3) against the Trojans can the Bears handle playing on the USC floor and maybe beat the odds?

Cal Bears podcasts with Michael Duca are heard each Thursday at